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M Richard, "Les lextcs hagiographiqucs du codex Athos Philolhe'ou 52", AB 93 
(1975) 150, 154 (BHG 1322v in a recension of the pscudo-Anastasian Erotapokriseis 
CPG 7746); J.E. Bruns, "The 'Altcrcatio Jnsonis el Paptsci', Philo, and Anastasius 
the Sinaite", ThS 43 {1913) 287-294; D.T. Runia, Philo in Early Christian Literature, 
Assen-Minneapolis 1993, 210-211; K.-R Uthemann, "Was verraten Katenen liber 
die Exegese ihrcr Zeit?'\ Stimuli. Exegese und ihre Hernteneutik in Antike und 
Christentum. Festschrift fiir E, Dassmann, cd. G. Schollgen, C. Scholtcn, JbAC, Erg. 
23, Minister 1996,290. 


There are no doubts about the existence of an Alexandrian Ammonius, 
an exegete who wrote commentaries on the book of Daniel (PG 85 1 

1364-1381; 1S23-1826) and on John's Gospel (PG 85, 1392-1524), but 
there are no sure data by which to identify him more precisely. He tends 
to be identified with the presbyter and oikonomos of the Alexandrian 
Church who subscribed a letter to the Emperor Leo in defence of the 
Council of Chalcedon against Timothy Aclurus. In the Catenae on John 
he is called "presbyter". Since he depends on authors of the 4th and 5th 
centuries, Reuss identifies him with the other Ammonius of Alexandria 

(CPG 6982), cited by Anastasius the Sinailc, who would have lived in 
the first half of the 6th century. Others, such as Elorduy, would identify 
him with the philosopher Ammonius Saccas: but this would take him 
back from the 6th century to the 3rd, an opinion not commonly accepted 
(cf. Anastasius the Sinaite, p. 320). The exegete seems to have lived 
between the 5th and 6th centuries. Apart from the two books cited, all 
we have of him are fragments of other biblical commentaries: on the 
Psalms (PG 85, 1361-1364), Luke, Acts (PG 85, 1524-1608), I 
Corinthians and I Peter (PG 85, 1608-1609). The fragments on Matthew 
(PG 85, 1381-1392) are spurious. 

Editions and studies: CPG 5500-5509; T. Zahn, "Der Exegcl Ammonius und andere 
Ammonius", ZKG 38 ( 1 920) 1-22, 33 1 -336; J. Rcuss, "Der Exeget Ammonius und 
die Fragments seines Mauhiius- und Johannes Kommentars", Biblica 22 (1941) 
13-20; Idem, Jahanncs-Kommentare aus der griechischen Kirche, TU 89, Berlin 
1965, 196-358; Idem, "Der Presbyter Ammonius von Alexandrien und sein 
Kommentarzum Iohannes-Evangclium", Biblica 44 (1963) 159-170; R. Devrcesse, 
DBS I, 1137; 1158; 1174; 1203; 1223; Bardenhewer, 5, 83-86; E. Elorduy, 
"Ammonio en las catenas", Estudios Eel. 44 (1969) 383-432; H. Dtirrie, "Ammonios, 
der Lehrer Plotins", Hermes 83 (1955) 439-477, csp. 471 ff,; Lexikon der antikeh 
chrisilichcn LUeratur, edd. S. Dopp, "W. Ceerlings, Freiburg 1998, 23. 


by Paolo Bettiolo 


There is a passage in the second homily preached by Basil on Genesis in 
the last years of his life, in the second half of the 370s, that has often 
drawn the attention of readers, both ancient and modern, and I think it 
useful to introduce it here to illustrate some nodal problems posed by 
Syriac Christian literature as a whole and the study of it. 

The bishop of Caesarea, commenting on Gen 1, 2 and strongly 
emphasizing his preference for an identification of the spirit of God 
mentioned in that verse with the Holy Spirit, clarifies its "moving" upon 
the waters by adducing the explanation of "a Syrian, as far from worldly 
wisdom as he was close to the knowledge of truth", who understood it 
in the light of the corresponding term in the Syriac version of the passage. 
That anonymous witness "said that the word of the Syrians was more 
expressive" than that of the Greeks and that, "by its kinship with the 
Hebrew, it came rather closer to the sense of the Scriptures" (cf. A.C, 
Way, Saint Basil. Exegetic Homilies, Washington (DC) 1963, 31 [Horn. 

II, 6, 2]). 

The problem of identifying this "Syrian" has often drawn the attention 
of readers and scholars. The most convincing hypothesis is that lately 
argued by L. Van Rompay in "L'informateur syricn de Basile dc Ce'sarc'e. 
A propos de Gencsc 1, 2", OCP 58 (1992) 245-251: namely, that it was 
Eusebius, bishop of Emesa. This view is confirmed by a more recent 
publication by R.B. ter Haar Romeny, whose title it is interesting to 
record for the purpose of these introductory notes: A Syrian in Greek 
Dress - The Use of Greek, Hebrew, and Syriac Biblical Texts in Eusebius 
ofEmesa's Commentary on Genesis, Lovanii 1997. 

This is an important clue. Eusebius, earliest witness to the Antiochene 
exegetical traditions of which we have a solid literary legacy, was born 
at Edessa around 300, was trained to read Scripture at Caesarea, 
particularly by Eusebius (hence in an Origenian atmosphere), and was 
present at Antioch with Eustathius around 330. In his bilingualism, in 





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his biblical culture rich in multiple insights, perhaps also in his reluctance 
to involve himself in the burning theological discussions of the time, 
often too much dominated by speculative questions alien to him (Non 
sum contcniiosus, sed et abstineo me a contentione, he wrote), he is a 
good witness to the composite environment of the Church of Syria, 
Hellenized certainly, but not without its own original insights, matured 
partly (perhaps especially) in a singular familiarity with Jewish traditions. 
"A Syrian in Greek dress", writes ter Haar Romeny: a Syrian, I would 
add, at times aware of the dignity and strength that Syriac derived from 
its closeness to Hebrew. This appears in the case of the exegesis of Gen 
1, 2, on which cf. the volume cited above, especially pp. 174-183, 
though in the texts examined there it is not used, to understand the 
"moving" of the Spirit, in the way that appears from Basil's passage, 
but only in an introductory example, which nevertheless allows it to be 
likened to the Hebrew against the Greek. Strength and dignity of Syriac, 
it was observed, which even Basil, let us remember, granted to this 
Semitic language. 

So not only did the first "Latin" cultivators of Syriac in the 14th 
century honour it as the language of Christ, "consecrated by his own 
divine mouth", and hence a link with a more faithful witness to him, 
part of a sensibility so much less perplexed than our own over-Hellenized 
theological traditions (cf. W. Strothmann, Die Anfcinge der syrischen 
Siudien in Europe Wiesbaden 1 97 1 ; A. Van Roey, "Les dtudes syriaques 
d'Andreas Masius", OLP 9 [1978] 141-158); not only do many, even 
now, often approach the texts of the "Semitic" communities of Syria 
diligent to gather exemplary traces of Christianities closer to the Jewish 
root, quickly superseded and yet by no means minoritaire among the 
Greek and Latin Churches, but even Eusebius, even Basil attested both 
their awareness of a voice clearly identifiable in them, evidence of a 
familiarity with "Israel" elsewhere more difficult, and their solicitude 
for it. 

Certainly, there are scholars who invite due prudence in cultivating 
theories that sometimes seem justified more by anxieties of our own 
(anxieties of the West, even when Christian) than by the texts: when 
Jesus was born, they insist, "Syria", especially its Roman part, had 
long been a "Greek" region as to the culture prevalent among its urban 
elites, nor are we able to discern clearly what else of "native" it may 
have harboured, so to speak, so that Christianity there underwent 
substantially those variations and resolutions that it attests elsewhere, 
at least in the East; after all, they add, it was not the more organized 
Jewish communities in its cities, whether in Osrhoene or Adiabene or 
elsewhere, converting (if they ever did convert), that constituted the 
nucleus, still less the sole nucleus, of the Christian communities that 

grew up there (thus especially Drijvers, whose various essays W iU be 
cited later). Every working hypothesis must thus be calmly checked, in 
b study of evidence and texts made slower by the paucity of the evidence 
of the origins and the complexity of later evidence, all the more at a 
Le like the present, of profound renewal of of the worlds that 
coexisted, converged or conflicted in the Hellenistic, Roman and Late 

An Sh thistrudence, but also with an awareness of the irreducibility 
of some data, I have sought to draw up the brief succinct notes, mostly 
bibliographical, that follow. 


What is introduced here is an altogether brief outline only of some of 
the authors and literary blocs, such as the whole of the anonymous 
versions of the Jewish or Christian Scriptures, operative and handed 
down in Syriac. Despite its brevity, it is essential to preface it with a 
bare minimum of bibliographical information, useful for placing authors 
and texts within the history - including linguistic history - of those 
regions and milieus of which they are a valuable witness. It is also 
worthwhile to precede these notes with some further information on 
the chief instruments (bibliographical reviews, encyclopedias, mono- 
graphs, collections of editions of texts, periodicals) available for the 
study of the literature, events, places, all the evidence of this vast field 
of the Christian East, to which the reader can easily turn to supplement 
the absences or insufficiencies of the following pages. Indeed, given 
the impossibility of providing a complete treatment and bibliography for 
each period, thematic area, author or text, a fairly selective identification 
has been made of subjects and their studies, in the latter case mentioning 
only those works that obey criteria of recognized significance and/or 
representativeness in the field of scientific output relative to the subject 
under examination, favouring especially the more recent contentions, 
which can inform and orient us on the earlier literature. I have tried 
however, to be exhaustive in giving editions of the authentic writings of 
the chosen authors, who, I repeat, are certainly not all of them, nor are 
they limited to those of whom entire texts have survived. 

1. Instruments 

a) Editions of texts. There arc three main collections of Syriac texts: 
the Patrologia Syriaca (PS), promoted by *<*»«** T^t™! 
three volumes were issued at Paris between 1894 and 9M(Synac text 
with Latin version opposite); the Patrologia Orientalis (PO), founded 
by the same R. Graffin with the collaboration of F. Nau and continued 

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2. Language, Milieu and History of the Churches of Syria: Fundamentals 

Inscriptions, commercial documents, magic formulae and brief traces 
of Manichaean scriptures or translations datable from the 2nd to the 4th 
centuries, alongside more extensive and perhaps also, at least in some 
cases, older (though very disputed in their dating) "original" texts, enable 
us to investigate the time, ways and reasons why the Edessene language 
and script prevailed as the vehicle of all Syriac literature. Among the 
editions and studies that have recently re-examined or put forward new 
materials relating to this set of texts and problems, cf. firstly the collection 
of inscriptions edited by H.J.W. Drijvers, Old Syriac (Edessean) 
inscriptions, Leyden 1972 (but see now H J.W. Drijvers and J.F. Healey, 
The Old Syriac Inscriptions from Edessa and Osrhoene. Texts, Trans- 
lations and Commentary, Leyden-Boston-Cologne 1999), supplemented 
by, among others, S. Brock, "Syriac Inscriptions: A Preliminary Check- 
List of European Publications", AlON 38 (1978) 255-371; A. 
Desreumaux, "Pour une bibliographie sur l'epigraphie syriaque", AION 
40 (1980) 704-708; H.J.W. Drijvers, "New Syriac Inscriptions'*, Aram 
5 (1993) 147-161; and A. Desreumaux, A. Palmer, "Un project 
international: le recueil des inscriptions syriaques", VI Symposium 
Syriactim 1992, ed. R. Lavcnant, Rome 1994, 443-447. For evidence 
connected to commercial activities, see also the writings studied by J, 
Teixidor in "Les dcrniers rois d'Edesse d'apres deux nouveaux 
documents syriaques", Zei tsch rift fit r Papyrologie und Epigraphik 16 
(1989) 219-222, and "Deux documents syriaques du IIP siccle apres 
J.-C. provenant du Moycn Euphratc", Comptes rendus de VAcademie 
des Inscriptions ct Belles Lcttres 1990, 146-166 (on these texts cf. S. 
Brock, "Some New Syriac Documents from the Third Century A,D. >1 , 
Aram 3 [ ] 99 1 ] 259-267). Still in connection with the linguistic history 
of Edessene Syriac, in its interweaving with other Aramaic dialects and 
its establishment as the leading literary language in the Christian 
communities of Syria and Mesopotamia between the 2nd and 3rd 
centuries, cf. also the studies of L. Van Rompay, "Some Remarks on 
the Language of Syriac Incantation Texts", VSytnposium Syriacum 1988, 
ed. R. Lavenant, Rome 1990, 369-381, and especially "Some Preliminary 
Remarks on the Origins of Classical Syriac as a Standard Language - 
The Syriac Version of Euscbius of Cacsarea's Ecclesiastical History", 
Semitic and Cushitic Studies, ed. G. Goldenberg, S. Raz, Wiesbaden 
1 994, 70-89 (with extensive bibliography), as well as R. Contini's essay, 
"Hypotheses sur Parameen manichcen", Annali cli Ca' Foscari 34/3 
(1995) 65-107 (also with extensive bibliography), which also reports 
the interesting Manichaean materials later published by M. Franzmann 
and I. Gardner, "Section B: Syriac Texts", Kellis Literary Texts, 1, ed. 



I. Gardner, with the collaboration of S. Clackson, M, Franzmann and 
K.A. Worp, Exeter 1996, 101-177. On the wider problem of the linguistic 
situation of the Semitic Near East in the Late Antique period, cf. finally 
F, Millar, "II ruolo delle lingue semitichc nel vicino orientc tardo romano 
(V-VI secolo)", Mediterraneo antico 1/1 (1998) 71-94, while on overall 
relations between Syriac and Greek see the studies by S. Brock, "Some 
Aspects of Greek Words in Syriac", Synkretisnuts im syrisch-persischen 
Kulturgebict, ed. A. Dietrich, AAWG 96 (1975) 80-108 (now in S. Brock, 
Syriac Perspectives on Late Antiquity, 4, London 1984); "Greek into 
Syriac and Syriac into Greek", Journal of the Syriac Academy 3 (1977) 
406-422 (now in Syriac Perspectives... cit., 2); "From Antagonism to 
Assimilation: Syriac Attitudes to Greek Learning", East of Byzantium, 
ed. N. Garsoian, T. Mathews, R. Thompson, Washington (DC) 1982, 
17-34 (now in Syriac Perspectives... cit., 5); and "Greek and Syriac in 
Late Antique Syria", Literacy and Power in the Ancient World, ed. A.K. 
Bowmann, G. Woolf, Cambridge 1994, 149-160. 

Part of the documents cited above and others are put to good use, 
with reference to an - also cultural - history of (Roman) Syria, in the 
sections devoted to this geographical area in F. Millar's The Roman 
Near East 31 BC-AD 337, Cambridge (MA)-London 1993, which 
includes a well organized bibliography. The same area is covered in the 
studies of G. Tchalcnko, Villages antiques de la Syrie du Nord - le 
massif du Belus a Tepoquc romaine, 3 voll., Paris 1953-1958; L. 
Dillcmann, Haute Mesopotamic orientals et pays adjacents, Paris 1962; 
and G. Tate, Les campagnes de la Syrie du Nord du IV an VHP siecle, 
un exemple d expansion demographiqtte et economique a la fin de 
VAntiquite, Paris 1992. 

On the Church of Persia and its sites, cf. the many works of J.-M. 
Fiey: Mossoul chretienne, Beirut 1959; Assyrie chretienne, 3 voll., Beirut 
1965-1968; Nisibe, tnetwpole syriaque orientate et ses suffragants des 
origines a nos jours, CSCO 388 / Subs. 54, Louvain 1977; Pour un 
Oriens Christianas novus. Repertoire des dioceses Syriaques orientaux 
et occidentaux, Beirut-Stuttgart 1993, and the essays collected in 
Communautes syriaques en Iran et Irak des origines a 1552, London 
1979. Cf. also E. Honigmann, Eveques et eveches monophysiies cTAsie 
anterieure an VP siecle, CSCO 127 / Subs. 2, Louvain 1951; Idem, Le 
convent de Barsauma et le patriarcat Jacobite d'Antioche et de Syrie, 
CSCO 146 / Subs. 7, Louvain 1954. 

On the canonistic literature produced by the Churches of Syria, see 
at least, for the Ncstorian world, the materials of a collection of 8th- 
ccntury conciliar decisions edited in J.-B. Chabot, Synodicon Orientale 
ou Recueil des Synodes nestoriens. Notices ct Extraits des Manuscrits 
de la Bibliolhequc Nationalc 37, Paris 1902, and, for the West Syrian or 




Jacobite world, the texts published in The Synodicon in the West Syrian 
Tradition, ed. A. Voobus, CSCO 367 and 375 / Syr. 161 and 163 (English 
tr.: 368 and 376 / Syr. 162 and 164), Louvain 1975 and 1976, as well as 
the studies of A. Voobus, Syrische Kanonessammhmgen, 1, Westsyrische 
Originalurkunden, CSCO 307 and 317 / Subs. 35 and 38, Louvain 1970, 
and W. Selb, Ohentalisches Kirchenrechts 1, Die Geschichre des 
Kirchenrechts der Nestorianer (von den Anfangen bis zur Mongolenzeitf, 
2, Die Geschichte des Kirchenrechts der Westsyrers (von den Anfangen 
bis zur Mongolenzeit), SAW 388 and 543, Vienna 1981 and 1989. 

Lastly, in these brief introductory notes, come the main literary 
sources, chronicles and histories produced by Syrian authors, Jacobites, 
Melkitcs or Nestorians, or translated into Syriac, on which may usefully 
be consulted the studies of J.-M. Fiey, Johns pour une histoire de Veglisc 
en Iraq, CSCO 310 / Subs. 36, Louvain 1970 (with an overall critical 
review of the sources); S. Brock:, "Syriac Sources for Seventh-Century 
History", Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 2 (1976) 17-36 (now in 
Syriac Perspectives.^ ciL, 7); Idem, "Syriac Historical Writing: A Survey 
of the Main Sources", Journal of the Iraqi Academy (Syriac Corporation) 
5 (1979/1980) 1-30 (now in Studies in Syriac Christianity, 1, London 
1992 - an extensive survey of the chronicle or historical material present 
in Syriac literature, excluding biographical or hagiographical writings, 
monastic histories, historical annotations in the margins of mss., and a 
few other minor texts; it also contains an essential bibliography of studies 
relating to the 27 works that it considers; at the end of the book are 
some additional bibliographical notes, in Addenda et corrigenda, 1-2); 
A. Palmer, Monk and Mason on the Tigris Frontier: The Early History 
ofTur 'Abdin, Cambridge 1990 (as is clear from the title, the volume is 
a sectorial historical investigation, relative to a restricted but nodal area 
and circles of Christian "Syria", but it provides much useful information 
on various Jacobite chronicles and hagiographical sources; the analytical 
index allows rapid identification of passages relative to the appraisal of 
each individual text); Idem, The Seventh Centwy in the West-Syrian 
Chronicles - including Two Seventh-Century Syriac Apocalyptic Texts 
Introduced, Translated and Annotated by S. Brock, with Added 
Annotation and Historical Introduction by R. Hoyland, Liverpool 1993. 


1) So-called Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite. Fourth section of the Zuqnin 
Chronicle (cf. infra, 11); its author, probably Edcssene and Jacobite, 
seems to have written around the end of the second decade of the 6th 
century. It describes in detail the events of the years 495-506/507 at 



Edcssa, Amida and all Mesopotamia. There are some separate editions 
and translations (in English: W. Wright, The Chronicle of Joshua the 
Stylite, Composed in Syriac, A.D. 507, Cambridge 1882; RR. Trombley, 
J.W, Watt, The Chronicle of Pseudo-Joshua the Stylite, Liverpool 2000), 
besides that of the chronicle that hands it down; on the text, cf. A. 
Palmer's recent essay, "Who Wrote the Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite?", 
Lingua restituta orientalis: Festgabe fur J. Affialg, ed. R. Schulz, M. 
Gorg, Wiesbaden 1990, 272-284, and the study by A. Luther 
accompanying the German translation, Die syrische Chronik des Josua 
Stylites, Berlin-New York 1997. 

2) Chronicle ofEdessa. Anonymous, by a Chalcedonian author "with 
'Nestorian' tendencies" (cf. S. Brock, Syriac Historical Writing); written 
soon after 540, it goes from 1 32/1 3 1 BC to AD 540: the text is in Chronica 
minora I, ed. 1. Guidi, CSCO 1 / Syr. 1,1-13 (Latin tr.: CSCO 2 / Syr. 2, 
3-11), Paris 1903; anast. ed., Louvain 1955. On this text, cf. now W. 
Witakowskt, "Chronicles ofEdessa", Orientalia Suecana 33/35 (1984/ 
1986) 487-498. 

3) Chronicle of Arbela. Anonymous, relating to the affairs of the 
Churches of Adiabene between 104 and 511, it was published by A. 
Mingana in Sources syriaques, 1, Leipzig 1907 (1-75, text; 76-168, 
French tr.)- Since the mid 1920s, many scholars have increasingly 
questioned its reliability, culminating in the extreme views of Fiey, who 
in 1967 maintained that it was a fake constructed by Mingana himself. 
Though it can certainly not be used to reconstruct the earliest events of 
the Christian history of Arbela, some (particularly Brock) maintain that 
for more recent periods it uses authentic valuable material, while stressing 
the need for further studies before it can be used with security. An 
anastatic edition is in Die Chronik von Arbela, ed. P. Kawerau, CSCO 
467 / Syr. 199 (German tr.: CSCO 468 / Syr. 200), Lovanii 1985. 

4) Amida Chronicle to 569. A section of the Ecclesiastical History of 
Pscudo-Zacharias the Rhetor, of which it constitutes books VIT-XII, 
composed using many important documents from the reigns of 
Anastasius, Justin I, Justinian and Justin II, it can be attributed to a 
Jacobite monk who lived probably at Amida, in the second half of the 
6th century; it can be read in Historia ecclesiastica Zachariae Rhetori 
vulgo adscripta, 2, ed. E.W. Brooks, CSCO 84 / Syr, 39, Paris 1921, 
16-218 (Latin tr.: CSCO 88 I Syr 42, Paris 1924, 11-147; anast. ed. of 
both volumes: Louvain 1953). 

5) Chronicle of John of Amida, bishop of Ephesus (from 542; f 586). 
The Chronicle goes from the time of Julius Caesar to AD 585; composed 

three parts, various-sized sections of the first two are incorporated 


n the Chronicle of Pseudo-Dionysins of Tel -Maine (on which cf. 






infra, 11): these are included in the section of this text edited in CSCO 
104 / Syr. 53; the third part, comprising the years around 571-585, is 
preserved, with lacunae, in a London ms. and is edited in W. Cureton, 
The Third Part of the Ecclesiastical History of John Bishop of Ephesus, 
Oxford 1853, and then in lohannis Ephesini Historiae ecclesiasticae 
pars tenia, ed. E.W. Brooks, CSCO 105 / Syr. 54, Paris 1935 (Latin tr.: 
CSCO 106 / Syr, 55, Paris 1936; anast. ed. of both volumes: Louvain 
1952). John is the author of a second work of great importance for the 
history of Monophysitism in the 6th century, the Lives of the Eastern 
Saints, written between 566 and 586, and edited in: John of Ephesus, 
lives of the Eastern Saints, ed. E.W, Brooks, PO 17/1, 18/4 and 19/2, 
Paris, respectively 1923, 1924 and 1926; on this text cf. S. Ashbrook 
Harvey, Asceticism and Society in Crisis. John of Ephesus and The Lives 
of the Eastern Saints, Berkeley 1990. 

6) Ecclesiastical History ofBarhadbeshabba 'Arbaya. This is a collection 
of Histories of Holy Fathers Persecuted on account of the Truth, between 
the 3rd and 6th centuries, written towards the end of the 6th century by 
one Barhadbcshabba, priest and badoqa (examiner of Scripture) at the 
Ncstorian school oFNisibis and later probably bishop of Halwan, to be 
distinguished from the more or less' contemporary Barhadbcshabba, 
disciple of Hcnana at Nisibis, to whom we will return on p. 472 (cf. the 
recent clarification of this distinction in G.J. Rcinink, " 'Edcssa Grew 
Dim and Nisibis Shone Forth': the School of Nisibis at the Transition of 
the Sixth-Seventh Century", Centres of Learning, Learning and Location 
in Pre-Modern Europe and the Near East, ed. J.H.W. Drijvers, A.A. 
MacDonald, Lcyden-Ncw York-Cologne 1995, 77-89, here n, 15 on p. 
81). The edition of the text, edited, with French tr., by F. Nau, is in La 
premiere partie del'histoire de Barhadbcshabba l Arha'fa, PO 23/2, Paris 
1932 (chh. 1-18) and La seconde partie de Vhistoire de Barhadbeshabba 
'Arbaia, PO 9/5, Paris 1913 (chh. 19-32). 

7) Melkite Chronicle. Anonymous, interested mainly in the ecclesiastical 
history of the 6th century, though it begins from the story of Adam and 
goes up to the death of Heraclius (641), compiled around the middle of 
the 7th century by a compiler keen to "place Scverian Monophysitism 
within the history of heresies and to emphasize its repeated 
condemnation", it shows strong literary kinship with the later Jacobite 
Chronicle to 846 (cf. infra, 14). It is introduced, edited, translated and 
annotated by A. De Halleux, "La chroniqtie Melkite abrcgee du ms. Sinai 
syr. 10", Museon 91 (197S) 5-44. 

8) Anonymous or "Guidi " Chronicle (from the name of its editor). This 
is a Ncstorian work composed probably around 670/680, somewhere in 
Khuzistan, important for the history of the last fifty years of the Sasanid 

Empire; it was published, on the basis of a Vatican copy of the sole ms. 
to preserve it, in Chronica minora, 1, 15-39 (Latin tr., 13-32): an edition, 
based on the original, with Arabic version, has recently been edited by 
P. Haddad (Baghdad 1976). 

9) Risk Melle, or Summary of the History of the World, by John bar 
Penkaye. A Nestorian monk trained at the monastery of Mar John of 
Kamul, living in the second half of the 7th century - the 15 volumes of 
Rish Melle were completed before 693/694 -, John is an author whose 
identity has sometimes been confused with that of the later, homonymous 
John of Dalyatha (cf. most recently R. Bculay, "Precisations touchant 
l'identite et la biographie de Jean Saba de Dalyatha", PdO 8 [1977-1978] 
87-116, esp. 88-102, with an evaluation of his surviving writings; a 
version of the first century of his ascetic book known as The Merchant 
can be read in M. Albert, "Une ccnturie de Mar Jean Bar Penkaye", 
Melanges A. Guiltaumont - Contribution a V etude des christianismes 
orientaux, Geneva 1988, 143-151, who places him, for his prudently 
presented Christological doctrines, among the "opponents of the official 
Nestorian Church", recalling the case of Hcnana of Adiabenc - ibid. 
144). Only books X-XV of the Summary, on which cf. T. Jansma, "Projct 
d'ddition du ktaba d-rcsh melle, de Jean bar Penkaye", OrSyr 8 (1963) 
87-106, have been published by A. Mingana in Sources Syriaques, 1, 
Mosul 1908, 2-171 (French tr. only of book XV, wholly devoted to the 
events of the 7th century: 172-203, with index; English tr. of the final 
section of book XIV and the greater part of XV in S. Brock, "North 
Mesopotamia in the Late Seventh Century: Book XV of John Bar 
Penkayc's Rish Melle", Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 9 [1987] 
51-75 [now in Studies in Syriac Christianity, cit., 2])- 

10) Chronicle cf Jacob of Edessa (t 708). A continuation of the Chronicle 
of Eusebius, it goes from the 20lh year of the reign of Constantine up to 
692, the year of its compilation; fragments remain, edited in Chronicon 
Jacobi Edesseni, ed. W.E. Brooks, CSCO 5 / Syr. 5, Paris 1905, 261-330 
(Latin tr.; CSCO 6 / Syr. 6, Paris 1907, 197-258; anast. ed. of both 
volumes: Louvain 1955). 

1 1 ) Zuqntn Chronicle, or Chronicle of Pseudo-Dionysius ofTell-Mahre. 
A Jacobite historical compilation in four parts, compiled probably at 
Ztiqnin, a place near Amida (hence the name by which it is now 
preferably designated), it goes from the beginning of the world to 
c. AD 775: cf. Incerti Auctoris Chronicon pseudo-dionysianum vulgo 
dictum, ed. J-B. Chabot, CSCO 91 and 104 / Syr. 43 and 53, Paris 1927 
and 1933 (anast. ed. of both volumes: Louvain respectively 1953 and 
1952; Latin tr. of the first, cd. J.-B Chabot, CSCO 121 /Syr. 66, Lovanii 
1949; French tr. of the second, ed. R, Hespel, CSCO 507 / Syr. 213, 







Lovanii 1989); the fourth part of the chronicle is edited, with a French 
version, by J.-B. Chabot under the title Chronique de Denys de Telt- 
Mahre, quatrieme partie, Bibliothcque de Pficole des Hautcs Etudes, 
Sciences philologiques et historiqucs, fasc. 112, Paris 1895. On this 
text cf. the two recent studies of W. Witakowski, The Syriac Chronicle 
of Pseudo-Dionysius ofTei-Mahre: A Study in the History of Historio- 
graphy, Uppsala 1987, and "Sources of Pseudo-Dionysius for the Third 
Part of his Chronicle", Orientalia Suecana 40 (1991) 252-275, which 
is an introduction to the version of this same section of the Chronicle 
subsequently edited by him: Pscudo-Dionysius of Tel-Mahrc, Chronicle, 
Part III, Liverpool 1995. 

12) Chronicle to 813. A brief anonymous chronicle, handed down by a 
lOth/llth-century ms., which marks the events of the years 775-S13. 
It is edited as Chronicon anonymum ad annum 813 pertinens in Chronica 
minora, 3, ed. E.W. Brooks, CSCO 5 / Syr. 5, Paris 1905, 243^260 
(Latin tr., ed. J.-B. Chabot, CSCO 6 / Syr. 6, Paris 1907, 185-196; 
anast. ed. of both volumes, Louvain 1955). 

13) Chronicle to 819. Written at Qartmin, not long after 818/819, the 
year with whose events it concludes its notes, which concern just the 
Christian era, indeed nearly half of it just the 7th and 8th centuries. This 
chronicle comes down to us in a 9th-century copy made by a certain 
Severus for his uncle, David, Jacobite bishop of Harran. It appears as 
Chronicon anonymum A. D. 819 pertinens, cd. A. Barsaum, in the edition 
of the Chronicon ad annum Christi 1234 pertinens (cf. infra, 15), CSCO 
81 / Syr. 36, Paris 1920, 1-22 (Latin tr., ed. J.-B. Chabot, CSCO 109 / 
Syr. 56, Paris 1937, 1-16; anast. cd. of both volumes: Louvain, 
respectively 1953 and 1952. 

14) Chronicle to 846, A brief work whose entries go from the creation 
of the world to 846/847; its final redactor may have been Nonnus of 
Harran, a Monophysite monk at Qartmin, later ordained bishop of Tur 
'Abdin by Dionysius of Tell Mahrc not long before his death, which 
took place in 845 (Palmer, Monk and Mason, 11), or else David of 
Harran, "the 26th bishop consecrated by Patriarch John III (846-873)" 
and probable recipient of the copy of the Chronicle to 819, on whose 
text it partly depends (Palmer, The Seventh Century, 83). The work is 
edited in Chronica minora, 2, ed. E.W. Brooks, CSCO 3 / Syr. 3, Paris 
1904, 157-238 (Latin tr. by L-B. Chabot, CSCO 4 / Syr. 4, 121-180; 
anast. ed. of both volumes; Louvain 1955). 

15) Chronography of Elias of Nisibis (1008-1046). Handed down by a 
ms. of 1018, in part probably by the hand of the author, a Neslorian, the 
work is edited in Eliae Metropolitae Nisibeni Opus Chronologicum, ed. 
E.W. Brooks, L-B. Chabot, CSCO 62: 1-2 / Syr. 21-22, Paris, respectively 

1910 and 1909 (Latin tr.: CSCO 63:1-2 f Syr. 23-24, Paris 1910; anast. 
ed. of all volumes: Louvain 1954; a French tr. of the text, with index of 
names, is in L. Delaportc, Chronographie de Mar Elie bar Shinaya, 
metropolite de Nisibe, Paris 19 1 0). 

16) Chronicle of Michael the Syrian. The work of the Jacobite patriarch 
Michael (1166-1199); the greatest of the Syrian chronicles, it extends 
from the creation of the world to the year 1194/1195. It is edited in J.-B. 
Chabot, Chronique de Michel le Syrien, patriarche Jacobite d'Antioche, 
4 volL, Paris 1899-1910 (anast. ed., Brussels 1963). On a small section 
of the Chronicle, its relationship with that of "Verus Dionysius" of Tell 
Mahrc, whom it cites in that place, and the labours that both works 
require, cf. now L ShahTd, "The Restoration of the Ghassanid Dynasty, 
A.D. 587: Dionysius of Tell-Mahrc", Aram 5 (1993) 491-503. 

17) Chronicle to 1234. An anonymous work of the first half of the 13th 
century, composed probably in the Jacobite monastery of Barsauma 
partly using materials from the work of Dionysius of Tell Mahre. It is 
edited in Chronicon ad annum Christi 1234 pertinens, ed. L-B. Chabot, 
CSCO 81 / Syr. 36, Paris 1920 (Latin tr.: CSCO 109 / Syr. 56, Paris 
1937; anast. ed. of both volumes: Louvain, respectively 1953 and 1952). 

18) Chronicle of Bar Hebraeus, The work of the bishop (and "maphrian" 
of the East) of the Syrian Jacobite Church Abu 1-Faraj Griguryus Ibn 
al-Tbri, known in the West as Bar Hebraeus (1225/1226-1286), the last 
great representative of medieval Syrian literature; the chronicle depends 
in large part on Michael's work, which it continues up to its author's 
own time. The first part, concerning secular chronography, is edited in 
E.A.W. Budge, The Chronography of Gregory Abu'l-faraj, 1225-1286, 
2 voll. (1: English tr.; 2: facsimile reproduction of ms. syr. Bodl. Hunt. 
52), London 1932; anast. cd,, Amsterdam 1976; the second part, 
concerning religious history, is edited, with Latin tr., in Gregorii 
barhebraei Chronicon ecclesiasticum, ed. LB. Abbeloos, T.J, Lamy, 3 
voll., Lovanii 1872-1877. 





f» ; 


The establishment of a "Syriac Christianity" as a "third cultural tradition" 
alongside Greek and Latin, to use an expression of S. Brock {Eusebius 
and Syriac Christianity, cit., 212), is a controversial process, so much 
so that H.J.W. Drijvers has re-used the phrase polemically, emphasizing 
that its use is legitimate only if that tradition is understood as "not funda- 
mentally different from what was thought and written in Greek-speaking 
Syria" (Early Syriac Christianity... cit., 159 andesp. 173), ihnsde facto 
voiding it of any strong individuality: Syriac, he wrote elsewhere, "is 
not host to a different culture than Greek; both languages are an expression 
and vehicle of the same Hellenistic civilization", in all its varied make-up 
(H.J.W. Drijvers, Syrian Christianity and Judaism, 126). 

One of the points around which discussion revolves is that of the 
version of Scripture. Primarily, of the Scriptures of Israel: who was 
their promoter and author? The Jewish community or one of the 
Christian communities of Edessa? And if the former, what role did that 
Jewish milieu play in the evolution of Christianity in Syria? Secondarily, 
of the Christian Scriptures: was the Gospel originally known in Syria a 
Greek or an Aramaic one? And if, at least fairly early, the Syrian Churches 
knew (and read) a Greek Gospel or one built on Greek texts and 
traditions, did they not also accept and welcome more archaic Aramaic 
traditions, of which we have sure traces? And were these at first not 
current in Jewish milieus, the very ones probably linked to that version 
of the Scriptures just spoken of, so that acceptance of Jesus was in no 
way incompatible with their own tradition, and so that by this route too 
they would have significantly influenced any future Christian community 
in the Syriac world? M. Weitzman, for example, reformulating old views, 
recently maintained, on the basis of a renewed analysis of the variants 
of the Syriac text, that the Peshitta is a Jewish translation and the work 
of "a single school", which worked between the beginning of the 2nd 
and, at latest, that of the 3rd century {From Judaism to Christianity, 
163, 157-158). He also maintained that the Judaism reflected in it differs 
from rabbinic Judaism and expresses a tradition rooted in "a popular 
movement, hostile to temple worship, going back to biblical times" (ibid. 
165-166). Its heirs, translators of the text, would have adopted 
Christianity as being more consistent than Rabbinism "with the religious 



values most dear to them" (ibid. 167); and their hostility to any gnostic 
solution (ibid. 158) would also have been transmitted, with the Scriptures, 
to the Christian community, leaving a decisive mark on it. S. Brock, J. 
Joosten and others have reinforced these hypotheses on the tendency 
of the so-called "New Testament". 

Against this, Drijvers holds that the Christians of Syria were mainly 
of gentile origin and explains the progressive assumption by a growing 
number of them, the "orthodox", not just of Israel's books, which they 
would have had translated from Hebrew originals, but also of many of 
Israel's traditions, as part of the encounter that saw them engaging 
with Marcionitc or at any rate "heretical" groups and propaganda. There 
would be no reason to hypothesize any non-rabbinic Judaism in Edessa, 
given the links between that city's Jewish community and that of nearby 
Nisibis, then the scat of a famous academy in which a rabbinic Judaism 
is attested, nor to hypothesize any particularly active role of that commu- 
nity in the origins and definition of Christianity in Syria (cf. HXW. 
Drijvers, Syriac Christianity and Judaism, 1 38-143; Early Syriac Chris- 
tianity... cit., 174-175). 2nd-ccntury Edessa, at the height of its intellec- 
tual splendour, would, on the contrary, have been characterized mainly 
by a cultivated, highly Hellenized Christianity like that of Bardesanes, 
the philosopher and courtier who celebrated the Logos/Christ as regulator 
of chaos and interior teacher, able to direct man's free mind to good 
works and control of the body and of worldly affairs, "authentic ideal 
of the wise, well-educated noble", "representative of the central values 
of the society at the very centre of power", the court (Idem, Apocjyphal 
Literature..., 238), or alternatively like that of Tatian and of the 
apocrypha that would seem to be consistent with his teaching {Acts of 
Thomas and Doctrine of Addai, especially), for whom Christ is not a 
teacher, but an aid in the struggle against the age, in the enkrateia that 
must dominate the life of a Christian aiming at mystical marriage with 
his saviour, so that, pure, he may "regain his original immortality", the 
harmony of an alternative world to that of the present age (ibid. 239). 

What should at any rate, incidentally, be emphasized in substantial 
parts or sections of these or other works, e.g. the Odes of Solomon, is 
the symbolic and poetic character they often assume: a highly elaborate 
poetry, heavily didactic in character, which is connected with the later 
works of Ephrem and his school, thus constituting a major trait of the 
first Christian literature of the Syrian world. A poetry, also, perhaps 
inside the biblical wisdom traditions, which some connect with the milieu 
of the scribes "close to the Temple of Jerusalem and its liturgy", thought 
by some to have been present and active both in theological meditation 
and in the mission of the primitive Christian community (M.-J. Pierre, 
"La viergc predicante..,", 256 - for this essay cf. infra, Studies on the 

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had been based on the Diatessaron, that harmony of the Gospels 
composed by Tatian around 170. Between the 1840s and the 1890s, 
however, two successive discoveries brought to our knowledge two 
different witnesses (the Syro-Sinailic palimpsest - late 4th century - 
and the Curetonian ms. - 5th century) to what seems one and the same 
version of the "separate gospels". This version, customarily designated 
the Vetus syra, would have provided the basis for fixing the text of the 
Peshitta, which it predated, and would in turn have been made using, at 
least in part, the Diatessaron, which would thus predate it and would 
allow it to be dated, approximately, to the 3rd century. Is it possible to 
go beyond Tatian's work? It seems that, in constructing his "harmony", 
he used not just the "canonical" Gospels, but also a "fifth source", 
whose material sometimes agreed with readings proper to texts like the 
Gospel to the Hebrews or the Gospel of Thomas. It has been proposed 
to identify this source with that Aramaic tradition of Palestinian origin, 
independent of the Greek Gospels, that had first conveyed a knowledge 
of Jesus to the peoples of Syria, pivoting, to begin with, on the region's 
Jewish communities. Certainly, West Aramaic expressions or, more 
generally, elements left a deep mark not just and perhaps not so much 
on the Peshitta as on the more general exegetical and "spiritual" meditation 
of the Churches of Syria, as many recent studies have demonstrated 
(cf. e.g. S. Brock, The Lost Old Syriac...). 

While these are the probable stages of the gradual formation of the 
"simple" or "common" version of the Gospels in Syria, wc cannot ignore 
some later developments which, among the West Syrians, more or less 
radically modified their text, though without prevailing at an ecclcsial 
level. Early in the 6th century, PMloxenus, Monophysite bishop of 
Mabbtlgb, dissatisfied with the text of the Peshitta because of the 
"Nestorian" traits he perceived in some of its readings, got the 
chorepiscopus Polycarp to make a new translation from the Greek 
Gospels, for dogmatic purposes, of which we have only a few fragments. 
About a century later, in 616, in a monastery near Alexandria, another 
bishop of Mabbugh, deposed from his sec on account of his Monophysite 
faith, undertook a translation of the Greek text of the New Testament, 
perhaps also using the Philoxenian one: this was Thomas of Harqel, 
who included in his work those apostolic writings (2 Peter, 2 and 3 
John, Jude) not previously included in the canon of the Eastern Churches. 

Editions: a) Diatessaron: cf. the editions of Ephrem^s commentary on (lie Diatessaron, 
cited among that author's works, our main source of knowledge of the evangelical 
harmony in its Syriac form, b) "Separate gospels": Curetonian ms,: W. Cureton, 
Remains of a Very Ancient Recension of the Four Gospels in Syriac, Hitherto Unknown 
in Europe, London 1858; Syro-Palestininn palimpsest: A.S. Lewis, The Old Syriac 
Gospels or Evangelion da-mepharreshe; Being the Text of the Sinai or Syw-Antiochene 



Palimpsest, Including the Latest Additions and Emendations, with the Variants of the 
Curetonian Text. Corroborations from Many Other MSS., and a List of Quotations 
from Ancient Authors, London 1910, Peshitta: P.E. Puscy, G.H. Gwilliam, Tetra- 
euangelium Sanctum iuxta simplicem Syrorum versionem ad fidem codicum, 
Massorae, editionum demto recognition, Oxford 1901 (tliis is the text used in editions 
of the NT edited, from 1905, by the British and Foreign Bible Society, and in those 
sponsored, from 1988, by the United Bible Society - to be supplemented, for 2 
Peter, 2-3 John, Jude and Revelation, with J. Gwyrm, The Apocalypse of St. John in 
a Syriac Version Hitherto Unknown t BubVm 1897, anast. ed., Amsterdam 1981; and 
Remnants of the Later Syriac Versions of the Bible, Pari I: New Testament, London 
1909, anast, ed„ Amsterdam 1973, also used in the complete reprinlings of the NT 
cited above, for the sections indicated). A critical edition of the Syriac NT is in 
preparation, promoted by the University of Munster (Germany), under the title 
Das neue Testament in syrischer Uherlieferung, of which three volumes have 
appeared; B. Aland (in collaboration with A. Juckel), I, Die grossen Kathoiischen 
Briefe, Berlin-New York 19S6 (cf. the review by A. Dc Halleux: Museon 99 [1986] 
359-362); B. Aland, A. Juckel, II, Die Paulinischen Briefe, Teii I. Romer und I. 
Korintherbrief, Berlin-New York 1991 (cf. the review by A. De Halleux: Musion 
104 [1991] 389-391); Idem, II, Teil2. 2. Korintherbrief, Gaiaterbrief, Epheserbrief 
Philipperbrief und Kolosserbrief, Berlin-New York 1995. Versio harqlense: J. White, 
Sacrorum Evangeliorum, Actorum Apostolorum et Epistoiarum tarn cathoticarum 
quam paulinarum Versio Syriaca Philoxeniana, 3 vol! ., Oxonii 1778- 1 803; A. Voobus, 
The Apocalypse in the Harklean Version. A Facsimile Edition of Ms. Mardin Orth. 
35 t fol. 143r-159v, with an Introduction, CSCO 400 / Subs. 56, Louvain 1978. The 
volumes of the Munster edition, cited above, contain the text of the Harqel version. 
A comparative publication of the texts of the various Syriac versions of the Gospels 
is now provided by G.A. Kiraz, Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels, 4 voU., 
Leyden 1996 (vol, I contains an ample Introduction to the Harhlean Text by A. 
Juckel, xxxi-lxxxii; on the publication, cf. the review by T. Baarda: Novum 
Testamentum 29 [1996] 405-413). 

A concordance of the Syriac NT is offered by G.A, Kiraz, A Computer-generated 
Concordance to the Syriac New Testament, Leyden 1993; cf. The Concordance to the 
Peshitta Version of the Aramaic New Testament, New Knoxville (OH) 1985; and W. 
Jennings, U. Gantillon, Lexicon to the Syriac New Testament, Oxford 1926, anast. 
ed., Oxford 1962. 

Studies: J. Kerschensteincr, Dcraltsyrische Pauhistext, CSCO 315 / Subs. 37, Louvain 
1970; B.M Mctzger, The early Versions of the New Testament. Their Origin, 
Transmission and Limitations, Oxford 1977 (for the Peshitta cf. ch. 1); S. Brock, 
"Jewish Traditions in Syriac Sources", Journal of Jewish Studies 30 (1979) 212-232; 
Idem, "The Resolution of the Philoxenian/Harklean Problem", New Testament Textual 
Criticism, Essays in Honour ofBM. Metzger, ed. E.J. Epp, G/D. Fee, Oxford 1981, 
325-343; B. Aland, "Bibeliibcrsetzungcn - 4: Die Ubcrsetzung ins Syrischc. 2; 
Neues Testament", TRE 6 (1980) 189-196; A. Voobus, Studies in the History of the 
Gospel Text in Syriac I!, CSCO 496 / Subs. 79, Louvain 1 987; J. Joostcn, The Syriac 
Language of the Peshitta and Old Syriac Versions of Matthew. Syntactic Structure, 
Translation Technique and Inner Syriac Developments, Ph.D. Thesis Hebrew 
University, Jerusalem 1988 (now published, Leyden 1996); S. Brock, "The Lost 
Old Syriac at Luke I: 35 and the Earliest Syriac Terms for the Incarnation", Gospel 
Traditions in the Second Century, ed. W.L. Petersen, Notre Dame- London 1989, 
117-131; W. Strothmann, "Die Handschriften der Evangelien in der Versio 





Heraclensis". Lingua restitute orientalis: FestgabefltrJ. Assfatg, ed. R. Schultz, M. 
Gorg, Wiesbaden 1990, 367-375; J- Joosten, "The Text of Ml 13, 21a and Parallels 
in the Syriac Tradition", NTS 37 (199 L) 153-159; Idem, "West Aramaic Elements in 
the Old Syriac and Peshitia Gospels", Journal of Biblical Literature 110/1 12 (1991) 
271-289; W.L. Petersen, Tatian's Diatessaron. Its Creation, Dissemination, 
Significance and History in Scholarship, Leyden 1994; J.P. Lyon, Syriac Gospel 
Translations. A Comparison of the Language and Translation Method Used in the 
Old Syriac, the Diatessaron and the Pcshitto, Louvain 1994; A. Juckcl, "Zur 
Rcvisionsgeschichle der Harklensis", Bericht der Hermann Kunst-Stiftung zur 
Forderung derneutestamentlichenTextforschungfilr die Jahre } '992-1994 ^Miinstcr 
1 995, 50-68; S. Brock, "A Palestinian Targum Feature in Syriac", Journal of Jewish 
Studies 46 (1995) 271-282; G. Lenzi, "L'antica versione siriaca dei Vangcli dopo 
ceiuocinquant'anni di ricerca", Amali di scienze religiose 3 (1998) 263-278. 


This is one of the most interesting works of the very earliest Syriac 
literature: 42 odes, in very careful writing, probably Syriac in their original 
redaction, but also surviving in a Greek recension perhaps by the same 
hand as the former, which the anonymous Christian author circulated 
under the pseudonym of King Solomon, to signify that the speaker was 
"the glorious figure of regal wisdom of which he is the type" (M.-J. 
Pierre, Odes,..- Introduction, 26). Quite close to Johannine, but also, it 
is said, to Qumranic vocabulary and themes, they have generally been 
considered an old document, from the early 2nd century, which the 
most recent interpreter would refer to an author proceeding from the 
"Judaco-Christian milieu of Jerusalem, close to the Temple, mindful of 
traditional ways of writing and interpretation, ascetic in tendency, a 
composer of liturgical chants, perhaps even linked to the family of Jesus", 
interpreter of a "rather primitive" sophianic meditation (ibid. 54). 

Against this, Drijvers in particular has aimed in many studies to 
demonstrate that the Odes originate from a bilingual 3rd-century cultural 
milieu, given the anti-Marcionitc ideas and traces of an Antiochcnc 
Christology characteristic of the 2nd century which they supposedly 
show, the influence of Tatian's Diatessaron and of the encratite 
interpretation of the Christian tradition which they supposedly condemn. 
Moreover, he maintains that, with and against the Manichacan Psalms, 
lo which they are then compared, they reveal the ferments of an unsettled 
and lively period among the "Christian" communities of Edessa in the 
last decades of the 3rd century. 

Editions: J<H. Charlesworth, The Odes of Solomon - The Syriac Text. Edited with 
Translation and Notes, Chico (CA) 1973; Idem, The Odes of Solomon. Papyri and 
Leather Manuscripts of the Odes of Solomon, Duke University, Durham (NC) 1981; 
M. Lattice, Die Oden Salomos in ihre Bedetttung fiir Neues Testament und Gnosis, 4 
voll., Fribourg-Gottingcn 1979- 19S6 (with German tr.); M. Franzmann, The Odes 

of Solomon. An Analysis of the Poeticai Structure and Form, Fribourg-Gottingen 
1991 (with English tr.); M. LaCtke, Oden Salomos. Text, Ubcrsclzung, Kommcntar, 
Teil I - Oden I und 3-4, Gottingen 1999. 

Translations -Italian; M, Erbctta, "Lc Odi di Salomone", Erbetta I/] , Vangeli. Testi 
giudeo-cristiani e gnoslici, Casale Monferrato 1982, 608-658. 

French: M.-J. Pierre, Les Odes de Salomon, Turnhout 1994 (with introduction and 


Studies: General introduction: M. Petit, "Odes de Salomon", DSp 11 (1982) 

a) Odes and New Testament: D.E. Aune.'The Odes of Solomon and Early Christian 
Prophecy", NTS 28 ( 1 982) 435-460; M. Lattke, "The Apocryphal Odes of Solomon 
and New Testament Writings", ZNTW 73 (1982) 294-301; J.T. Sanders, "Nag 
Hammadi, Odes of Solomon and New Testament Christological Hymns", Gnosticism 
and the Early Christian World, ed. J.E. Goehring et al, 7 Sonoma 1990, 51-66. 

b) Language, milieu and time of redaction: L. Abramowski, "Sprache und Abfassungs- 
zeit der Oden Salomos", OrChr6B (1984) 80-90; H.J.W. Drijvers, "Odes of Solomon 
and Psalm of Mani", Studies in Gnosticism and Hellenistic Religions Presented to Q. 
Quispcl, ed. R. Van den Broek, M.J. Vermascrcn, Leyden 1981, 117-130; Idem, 
"Solomon as Teacher: Early Syriac Didactic Poetry", IV Symposium Syriacum 1984, 
ed. H.J.W. Drijvers, R. Lavenant, C. Molenberg, G.J. Reinink, Rome 1987, 123-134; 
M. Franzmann, "Portrait of a Poet: Reflections on 'foe Poet' in the Odes of 
Solomon", Perspectives on Language and Text. Essays... in Honour of F.I. Andersen, 
ed. E.W. Conrad, E.G. Ncwing, Winona Lake 1987, 315-326; M. Lattke, "Die 
griechiscbeti Wortcr imsyrischen Text der Oden Salomos", Aram 5 (1993)285-302. 

c) Theology: H.J. W. Drijvers, "The 19th Ode of Solomon; Its Interpretation and 
Place in Syrian Christianity", JTS 31 (1980) 337-355; M. Franzmann, "Strangers 
from Above: An Investigation into the Motifs of Strangeness in the Odes of Solomon 
and Some Gnostic Texts", Museon 103 (1990) 27-41; M. Lattke, "Die Messias- 
Stellen der Oden Salomons' 1 , Anfdngc der Thcologic, Gottingen 199 1 , 429-445; M.-J. 
Pierre, "La viergc prcdicantc de la 33° Ode de Salomon", Centre d y etudes des religions 
du Hvre - De la conversion, cd. J.-C. Attias, Paris 1997, 255-279; Mem, "Les Odes 
de Salomon, 'chants de la venue du Seigneur' ", Prologues, Entrer en matiere, ed. 
J.-D. Dubois, B. Roussel, Paris 1998, 149-164. 


The fragmentary state of the material referable to Bardesancs - to whom 
its attribution is often uncertain, due to the difficulty of discerning 
between what is bis and what is ascribablc to disciples more or less 
close to him, whether chronologically or doctrinally - does not allow a 
precise, unanimous reconstruction of his teaching. What is certain is 
the importance of his work, which opened up Edcssenc Syriac to a 
wider use than that obtained for it by the activity of the translators of 
Scripture, Jewish or Christian. 

A representative of the city aristocracy, and certainly an outstanding 
figure at the court of Abgar VIII the Great, Bardcsanes was a learned 
intellectual with a multitude of interests, a clear-sighted interpreter of 


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Editions: W. Cureton, Spicilegium Syriacum, London 1855, 43-48 (English tr., ibid. 
70-76; German tr., with important study; F, Schulthess, "Der Brief des Mara bar 
Sarapion", Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenUindischen Gcseilschaft 5 ] [ 1 897j 365-391). 

Studies: General introduction: F. Millar, The Roman Near East 31 BC-AD 337, 
Cambridge (MA)-London 1993, 460-462. 

K.E, McVcy, "A Fresh Look at the Letter of Mara bar Sarapion to his Son", 
V Symposium Syriacum 1988, ed. R. Lavenant, Rome 1990, 257-272. 


The 7th-century Syriac ms. that includes the Liber legitm regiomim and 
the Letter of Mara also contains a Discourse ofMelito the Philosopher, 
addressed to Antoninus Caesar. A. Baumstark, in Geschichte der syrischen 
Literatur... ciL, 27, suggested that the work should be considered "an 
original", not translated from Greek. The unknown author, probably 
from Hierapolis/Mabbugh, wrote it between the 2nd and 3rd decades of 
the 3rd century. The hypothesis of a Syriac work was questioned by 
Duval, La litteraiure syriaque, 156-157, who emphasized the author's 
scant familiarity with Syrian traditions; but on this, cf. now F. Millar, 
The Roman Near East., .cit., 247, who, while lamenting the scant attention 
given to the work, which makes its reading difficult, observes among 
other things, in connection with the inaccuracies it contains about the 
pagan mythology of Hicrapolis, that "the fact of having been written in 
Syriac docs not necessarily save Christian analyses of pagan cults in 
Syria from presenting the same concatenation of confused and 
incompatible elements" that can be found, for example, in parallel 
observations by the "Greek" Lucian. Cf. also W.J.H. Drijvers, Early 
Syriac Christianity..., 173, on the cultivated and perfectly bilingual milieus 
of contemporary urban Syria, to which he ascribes Melito's Apology as 
well as the Letter of Mara mentioned above, and Brock, who in his 
1997 outline of Syriac literature, p. 18, inclines towards an original 
Greek redaction of the text, calling attention to a citation in it of 2 Peter, 
a work not present in the first Syriac canon of the NT. 

General introduction; F. Millar, The Roman Near East 31 BC-AD 337, Cambridge 
(MA)-London 1993. 477-478. 

Editions: W. Cureton, Spicilegium Syriacum, London 1855, 22-31- 

Translations -English: ibidem 41-51. 

Latin: J,B. Pitra, Spicilegium Solesmense, 2, Paris 1855, xxxvii-lvi. 


Early Christian literature knows various accounts of the mission, 
behaviour and actions, the journeys and martyrdom of the apostles, 

composed between the 2nd and 3rd centuries, certainly using a basts of 
early traditions, but fundamentally with the intention of entrusting the 
propaganda of the Gospel to the marvellous acts of "divine men", 
witnesses to the efficacy of the power of God, using and reworking the 
materials and forms of various literary genres then current, 

The Acts of Judas Thomas (c. 225) find their original place among 
these writings, with some of which, in the 4th century, they would 
come to form a unitary collection, perhaps of Manichaean provenance, 
but destined for a popularity as great as it was controversial. Though of 
Syrian composition (but probably not from the Edessa area), the Syriac 
text that now represents them has been subjected to interventions aimed 
at reworking them in an "orthodox" sense, so that sometimes the Greek 
version of them attests a form closer to the original. They tell the story 
of the preaching, miracles and martyrdom of Thomas in India, 
characterized by the enrolment of the figure of the apostle within an old 
tradition about him - perhaps predating the redaction of the canonical 
Gospels - of which they are one of the main witnesses. In accordance 
with this tradition, Thomas, type and model of the believer, is the "twin" 
of Jesus, in the end equal to him, one with him, as already suggested by 
the Gospel ascribed to him, which was certainly present to the redactors 
of the writing under examination here. It has been pointed out that the 
recurrence of images linked to the theme of the twin is continued in the 
Acts of Thomas, which incessantly multiply "the analogies between Jesus 
and his apostle, to the point that the destiny" of the latter "perfectly 
reproduces that of his lord and teacher", though the text, perhaps mindful 
of the "canonical" interpretation of Thomas (but perhaps also of the 
original perspective of its own tradition), contains "a theological intention 
aimed at emphasizing both distance and identity" between the two, 
wishing to indicate in this way that their unity "is above all spiritual" 
(P.-H. Poiricr, Evangile de Thomas..., 21). 

A work whose themes and encratitc emphasis made it very acceptable 
to the Manichaean communities of Syria (if not produced by them), the 
Acts appear as a reworking of various materials, among which particular 
importance attaches to the so-called Hymn of the Pearl, perhaps originally 
a text of a narrative from Babylonian Syria, whose very language attests a 
non-Edcssene and hence "prc-classical" Syriac. This tells of a king's son 
sent to the West to recover a precious pearl, there becoming forgetful of 
the task entrusted to him, until a letter delivered to him from his parents 
restores him to sclf-awarencss, so that he gains the pearl and brings it back 
to his country, thus obtaining his own inheritance -themes all reinterpreted 
as events of the soul and/or, more originally, of the Saviour/saved. 

Editions: W. Wright, Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, Edited from Syriac Manuscripts 
in the British Museum and Other Libraries with English Translations and Notes, 




• ■:, 

i s- 

Id i 

R :;::■ 

-. : 

J 3 

2 voll., London 1871 (text: 1,171-333; English tr.: II, 146-298; anast. ed., Amsterdam 
1968); P. Bedjan, Acta Martyrum el Sanctorum syriace II f Paris-Leipzig 1892 (text 
only: 1-175; anast. ed., Hiidesheim 1968). 

Partial critical editions: T. Jansma, A Selection from the Acts of Judos Thomas, 
Leydcn 1952; P.-H. Poirier, L'Hymne de la perle ties "Actes de Thomas", 
Introduction, texte, traduction, Louvain-la-Neuve 1981. 

Translations; A.RJ. Klijn, The Acts of Thomas, Leyden 1962; HJ.W. Drijvers, 
"ThomasakteiT, Neutestamentliche Apokryphen, 2, ed. W. Schneemelchcr, 5th ed., 
Tubingen 1989, 289-367; P.H. Poirier, Y. Tissot, "Les Actes de Thomas", fonts 
apocryphes chritiens, I, ed. F. Bovon, P. Geoltrain, Paris 1998, 1321-1470. 
Studies: General introduction: S. Mimouni, "Thomas (apotre)", DSp 15 (1991) 

J.D. Turner, "A New Link in the Syrian Judas Thomas Tradition", Essays on the 
Nag Hammadi Texts in Honour of A. Bdhllg, ed. M. Krause, Leyden 1972, 109-1 19; 
R. Kuntzmann, Le symboiisme des jumeaux an Proche-Orient ancien. Naissance, 
fonction et evolution d'un symbols, Paris 1983; H. Kruse, "Das Brautlied der 
syrischen Thomas-Akten", OCP 50 (1984) 291-330; Idem, "Zwei GeisE-Epiklese 
der syrischen Thomasakten", OrChr 69 (1985) 33-53; J.M. La Farguc, language 
and Gnosis: The Opening Scenes of the Acts of Thomas, Philadelphia 1985; D,R. 
Cartlidge, "Transfigurations of Metamorphosis Traditions in the Acts of John. 
Thomas and Peter", Semeia 38 (1 986) 53-66; Y. Tissot, "Lencratisme de.s Actes de 
Thomas", Aufstieg und Niedergang der romischen Welt, ed. W. Haase, Part 2, 25.6, 
Berlin 1988,4415-4430; S. Abou/.ayd, "The Acts of Thomas and the Unity of the 
Dualistic World in the Syrian Orient", Aram 1/2 (1989) 2 17-252; G, Rouwhorst, "La 
celebration de Teucharistie selon les Actes de Thomas", Omnes Circumadslantes: 
Contributions towards a History of the Role of the People in the Liturgy Presented to 
H. Wegman, Kampen 1990, 51-77; G.J. Riley, "Thomas Tradition and the Acts of 
Thomas", Society of Biblical Literature 1991 Seminar Papers. One Hundred Twenty- 
Seventh Annual Meeting. November 23-26, 1991, Kansas City, Missouri, Atlanta 
1991, 533-542; P.-H. Poirier, "Apousia. Note sur un mot de.s Actes dc Thomas". 
Aram 5 (1993) 427-435; Idem, "Evangilc dc Thomas, Actes dc Thomas, Livre dc 
Thomas. Une tradition el ses transformations", Apocrypha 7 (1996) 9-26; P, Siegert, 
"Analyses rhe'toriques ct stylistiques portent sur les Actes de Jean et les Actes de 
Thomas", Apocrypha 8 (1997) 231-250. 




The fortunes of the Church of Syria, both in the Western, "Roman" 
part and in the Eastern, Persian part of this large region, were from the 
first decades of the 4th century firmly enrolled under the banner of the 
victory of the so-called "Great Church", in the forms of organization 
and discipline of the individual Churches and of their communion, and 
also in terms of their confession of faith. This statement, it must be 
added, does not exclude a relationship, felt as decisive - and in fact 
revealed as such -, with the Churches of the Greek and Latin West, 
with which firstly the dioceses of Osrhocnc and Adiabene would have a 
stronger connection, and then gradually all the regions of Semitic and 
Iranian Persia. 

One contribution to the comparison with the traditions of the "Roman" 
Churches, themselves engaged in consolidation in this period, was 
certainly made, from the second half of the 3rd century, by the deporta- 
tion to Babylonia and Persia of populations from the area of Syria subject 
to Rome during the victorious campaigns of Shapur I (241-272) against 
the adverse Empire. Many of the deportees were Christians - laymen, 
presbyters or bishops - and in the places assigned them they maintained 
and developed a church life often distinct from that of the communities 
already present there, though not without stimulus and influence on 
them. Yet it was the events linked to the claim advanced by the bishops 
of the capital cities of Sasanid Persia, Seleucia and Ctesiphon, to have 
their primacy recognized over the whole Church of the East, that led 
between the second and fourth decades of the 4th century to a crisis 
whose resolution was in fact referred to the bishops of the West. 

The extent of this intervention must not be overrated, however. While 
the "Roman" bishops of, e.g., Edessa and Nisibis were present at Nicaea 
and were witnesses and actors in the introduction of "Nicene" themes 
and problems into their Churches, the situation of the "Persian" bishops, 
almost wholly absent from that council and very ill-informed about the 
debate to which it corresponded, was very different. In the late 330s, 
Aphrahat, the first great author of the "Catholic" Church of the East of 
whom we possess knowledge and writings, would attest a "credo" still 
wholly distant, in its terms and preoccupations, from those that had for 
some time been pronounced and proposed among the Latins and Greeks, 





ff ;jd 

I r* 

I i r 
I » 


II ' 


1 in 


signifying the altogether different sensibility and tradition of his 
community. Meanwhile, the sometimes very bloody persecutions, which 
severely tried the Churches of Persia for many decades from the early 
340s, threw their hierarchies into disarray for a long time, constraining 
them to a thoroughly difficult life, with little chance to cultivate distant 
relationships, from which they would emerge only at the start of the 
5th century, in no small part thanks to the intervention of a "Western" 
bishop who was a delegate of Theodosius II to the Sasanid court. 

Between the first decades of the 4th and the first years of the 5th 
century, at any rate, we see the first vigorous emergence, of which 
there is ample evidence, of a Syriac literature, quite varied in its 
expressions and often clearly referable to individual authors or milieus, 
prevalently, perhaps, but certainly not solely, from the "Roman" area. 
An "orthodox" literature, as was said before, which often, in the Passions 
of martyrs, apocrypha and chronicles that it produced especially towards 
the end of this period, aimed to emphasize and even "invent" "orthodox" 
origins and traditions for the Churches of which it was an expression; a 
literature, however, in which there is ample trace of material that is 
liturgical, exegetical, homilctic and, if it may be said, "archaic", linked 
to Jewish, encratite traditions, originally reinterpreted by the Christian 
communities of the region in the light of their perception of the novelty, 
the eschatological novelty and dignity of life given back to man by 
Christ - a material, it must be added, in tension with the contexts in 
which it was inserted and used, contexts that reveal the status of 
Churches which by now systematically accommodated "secular", 
"worldly", experiences, contexts that attest the duality, irresolvable 
within the actual life of believers, of the time of the Church, between 
presence and imminence of the kingdom. On the other hand, ever greater 
exposure to the characters and traditions of the Western Churches would 
involve, particularly at first in the Roman area, an institutional and 
organizational disciplining and a difficult acculturation into Greek 
theological debate (where Ephrem, in his criticism of the effrontery and 
speculative curiosity of the "heresies", would speak in tones not too 
different from those of Basil - saving only the different capacity to 
control the philosophical material underlying the discussion). It also 
involved the adoption and renewal, strong and original, of the monastic 
experience, in all its complex declension, including the "archaic" traits 
it fostered and its oft-attested reservations about the salvation-historical 
significance of the Constantinian turning-point, the presence of a 
"Christian king" and an "imperial church" in Rome and its territories. 

All these themes and problems, obviously, would receive particular 
attention from the second half of the century, with the gradual reduction 
and then cessation of the persecutions in Persia, and also in concomitance 

with the consolidation in the Roman area, towards the end of that period, 
of an active work of translation into Syriac of Greek texts: historical, 
apocryphal, homiletic and monastic. 

Studies', A. Voubus, History of Asceticism in the Syrian Orient. A Contribution to the 
History of Culture in the Near East. 1 , Tlte Origin of Asceticism, Early Monasticism in 
Persia, CSCO 184 / Subs. 14, Louvain 1958; 2, Early Monasticism in Mesopotamia ami 
Syria, CSCO 197 / Subs. 1 7, Louvain 1 960 (on the views here expounded cf. the review 
by A. Adam, now in the volume edited by K.S. Frank, Askese und Mbnchtum in der 
Alten Kirche, Darmstadt 1975, 230-254); 3, A Study of Monasticism in the Near East, 
CSCO 500 / Subs. 81, Lovanii I9SS; G. Ncdungatt, "The Covenanters of the Early 
Syriac-Speaking Church", OCP 39 (1973) 191-215,419-444; R. Murray, 'The Exhortation 
to Candidates forAscerical Vows at Baptism in the Ancient Syriac Church", NTS 21 
(1974) 59-80; Idem, Symbols of Church and Kingdom. A. Study in Early Syriac Tradition, 
Cambridge 1975 (repr. with corrections, 1977); Idem, "Some Rhetorical Patterns in 
Early Syriac Literature", A Tribute to Arthur Vobbus, cd. R.H. Fisher, Chicago 1977, 
109-131; M.-L. Chaumont, La chrtstiamsation de {'empire iranien des origines aux 
grandes persecutions du IV Steele, CSCO 499 / Subs, 80, Lovanii 1988; N. Kollun, 
Jewish-Christian Polemics in Fourth-Century Persian Mesopotamia: A Reconstructed 
Conversation, Sinndford 1993; S.H. Griffith, "Monks, 'Singles 1 , and the 'Sons of the 
Covenant 1 , Reflections on Syriac Ascetic Terminology", Euhghema. Studies in Honour 
ofR. Taft, S.J., cd. E. Carr, S. Parenti, A.A. Thiermcycr, E. Velkovska, Rome 1993, 
141-1 60; S. AbottZnyd, Ihidayutha. A Study of the Life of Singleness in the Syrian Orient. 
From Ignatius of Antioch to Chalcedon 451 A.D., Oxford 1 993; S.H. Griffith, "Asceticism 
in the Church of Syria. The Hermencutics of Early Syrian Monasticism", V.L, Wimbush, 
R. Vnlantasis, Asceticism, New York 1 995, 220-245, 


The use of the name Aphrahat, Syriac form of the Persian Farhad or 
Ferhad, to indicate the "Persian sage", author of a unitary corpus of 23 
Demonstrations or Expositions which survive entire, appears for the 
first time only in the middle of the 10th century, in the information-rich 
lexicon of Bar Bahlul. There is no earlier mention of his name. As George, 
the learned bishop of the Arabs at Hirta, who died in 724, wrote; "it is 
impossible to say with certainly who this Persian sage was, i.e. what 
was his dignity or rank in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, or even what was 
his name or place of residence". All the same, his work provides various 
pieces of information about him. 

Firstly, it is the product of three distinct periods of composition: the 
first ten Expositions were completed in 337, the next twelve in 344, 
while the last was brought to an end in August 345, fifth year of the 
persecution of the Christians "in the land of the East" ordered by the 
Sasanid ruler Shapur II. Secondly, Aphrahat speaks of himself as a 
"disciple of the Books", probably a gentile by birth. Furthermore, within 
the wider Christian community, local and regional, in which he enjoyed 
sound credit and in whose affairs he intervened authoritatively, he 








characterizes himself as a "solitary", a "son of the CovenanL , using a 
terminology that he is among the first to attest, member of an "order" 
that aimed henceforth to celebrate, free from the distractions of marriage, 
possessions and work, in service of the Word and in prayer, that heavenly 
liturgy in which the Kingdom would have its fulfilment. A "solitary" 
himself, it is to other "solitaries" that he mainly addresses his Expositions. 
Two further characteristics should be borne in mind to understand 
the personality, work and times of Aphrahat. However extraneous to 
the ecclesiastical affairs and theological discussions of the Western 
Churches (the creed he expounds, for example, shows no trace of the 
Niccne creed and its hinterland), he nevertheless not only knows about 
the Constantinian turning-point that has made the Empire of the Romans 
"Christian", but he even seems to interpret it providentially. Finally, in 
the second block of the Expositions he conducts a close defence of the 
Christian faith against the objections made against it by a "scribe, learned 
interpreter of the people" (the people par excellence, Israel), in a 
discussion that reacts, probably, to pressure then being exercised by 
the synagogue on the Churches, at a time of persecution for them. 
Editions (with main translations): J. Parisot, Aphraatis Sapientis Persoe Demonstra- 
tions, PS 1-2, Paris 1884-1907 (includes a Latin tr.; French tr.: M.-J. Pierre, Aphraate 
le Sage Person, Les Exposes, SCh 349 and 359, Paris 1 988 and 1 989; German tr.: P. 
Brum, Aphraal, Demonstrationes. Unterweisungen, Fontcs Christian! 5/1-2, Freiburg 
1 99 1 - French and German translations both contain ample, important, comprehensive 
introductions to Aphrahat, with rich bibliography. 

Studies: General introduction: G.G. Blum> "Afrahaf, TRE 1 (1977) 625-635; A. 
Voiibus, ■' Aphrahat", RAC4 (1986) 497-506. 

a) Aphraatcs and the Scriptures: T. Baarda. The Gospel Quotations of Aphrahat the 
Persian Sage, 2 vol!., Amsterdam 1975; R.J. Owens, The Genesis and Exodus 
Citations of Aphrahat the Persian Sage, Lcyden 19R3. 

b) Aphrahat and Judaism: J, Neusncr, Aphrahat and Judaism, Lcyden 1971; J.C. 
Snaith, "Aphrahat and the Jews" Interpreting the Hebrew Bible: Essays in Honour 
of&IJ, Rosenthal, ed, J. A. Hamilton, S.C. Reif, Cambridge 1982, 235-250; S.D. 
Benin, "Commandments, Covenants and the Jews in Aphrahat, Ephrem and Jacob 
of Sarug", Approaches to Judaism in Medieval Times, ed, D. Blumcnlhal, Chicago 
1984, 135-156; N. Koltun Fromm, "Aphrahat and the Rabbis on Noah's 
Righteousness in Light of the Jewish-Christian Polemic", The Book of Genesis in 
Jewish and Oriental Christian interpretation. A Collection of Essays, ed. J. Frishman, 
L. Van Rompay, Lovanii 1997, 57-71. 

c) Theology and sacraments in Aphrahat: E.J. Duncan, Baptism in the Demonstrations 
of Aphraatcs, the Persian Sage, Washington (DC) 1945; P. Bruns, Das Christusbild 
Aphrahats des Persischen Wcisen, Bonn 1990. 

d) Aphrahat and the Christian community - Demonstrate XIV: J.-M, Fiey, "Noiule 
de litterature syriaque. La demonstration XIV d' Aphraate", Museon 81 (1968) 
449.454; G. Ncdungatl, "The Authenticity of Aphrahaf s Synodal Letter", OCP 46 
(1980)62-88; M.-J. Pierre, "Un sytiadc contestatairc a L'ripoqne d' Aphraate le Sage 
Persan", Centre deludes des religions du livre - La controverse religieuse ct ses 
formes, ed. A. Le Bonlluec, Paris 1995, 243-279. 



e) "Sons of the covenant" and "solitaries": cf. the studies cited supra in the 
Introduction to this section, p. 437, and A.J. Van Dcr Aelst, ,l A l'origine du 
monachismc syrien: les l ihidaye' chez Aphraat", Fructus Centesimus: Melanges 
offerts a G.J.M. Bartelink, ed. A.A.R. Bastiaenscn, A. Hilhorst, C.H, Kneepkens, 
Dordrecht 1989,315-324. 

f) Aphrahat's writing: R. Murray, "Hellenistic-Jewish Rhetoric in Aphrahat", 
III Symposium Syriacum 1980, ed. R. Lavcnant, Rome 1983, 87-96. 


The one certain date of Ephrcm's life is that of his death, which took 
place on 9 June 373 at Edessa. Here he had arrived from the more 
easterly Nisibis, soon after the cession of that city, "without inhabitants", 
to Shapur II by the emperor Jovian in 363 at the conclusion of a war 
that had opposed Rome to Sasanid Persia. 

Ephrem was probably born at Nisibis or thereabouts in about 306. A 
text datable to the last decades of the 7th century informs us that in 
Nisibis bishop Jacob, active between c. 303 and 338, had founded a 
school, perhaps on the model of the schools run by the region's Jewish 
communities, one of which had operated in the city until about the end 
of the 3rd century, and had called Ephrem to interpret the Scriptures 
there. It is certain that Ephrem recalled Jacob as one who had begotten 
the Nisibenc Church and given it the milk of infancy, probably on account 
of the stronger relationship he had established with the Greek and Latin 
Churches, sanctioned by his presence at Nicaea; it is also certain that 
some time later he taught at the school supposedly founded by him, and 
some of his writings testify to this activity of his. He taught, again, 
while leading the life of a "solitary", a "son of the Covenant", in the 
manner of Aphrahat, busily present among the bishops who succeeded 
each other on the throne of the Nisibcne Church, first Babu (338-346), 
then Vologeses (died 361 or 362), to whom he was particularly close as 
deacon and also as a mature and authoritative Doctor, and finally 

Ephrem's concern for the orthodoxy of the Churches of Nisibis and 
Edessa is a major characteristic of his, attested by the many works, in 
verse and in prose, devoted by him to confirming the faith of the Christian 
community, to which lie invited particularly the sons and daughters of 
the Covenant, against the doctrines of Marcionites, Bardesanites, 
Manichecs and Arians, against the persistence of pagan customs, against 
the Jews, also, by whose exegetical traditions his meditation was 
nevertheless deeply influenced. For Christians he advocated a strict 
behaviour, capable of driving back the temptation of wealth and 
corresponding to the way of deprivation by which the Son had witnessed 
to the Father. 






l! ,J 


His active care for the needs of the Church and the city is also evident 
in the collaboration he lent, during the famine that raged at Edessa 
between 372 and 373, the year of his death, to the organization of relief 
for the needy, the distribution of food and the burial of the dead. 

General introduction: E. Beck, "Ephrem lfi Syrien (saint)", DSp 4 (1960) 788-800; 
Idem, "Ephraem Syrus", RAC5 (1962) 520-531; S. Brock, The Luminous Eye. The 
Spiritual World Vision of St, Epkrem, Rome 1985 (and Kalamazoo 1992, with added 
indexes); A. De Halleux, "Saint Ephrem le Syrien", RTL 14 (1983) 328-355. 
Bibliographical repertories (in chronological order): M.R. Roncaglia, "Essai de 
bibliographic sur Saint Ephrem le Syrien", PdO 4 (1973) 343-370; K. Samir, 
"Complements dc bibliographic ephremienne", PdO 4 (1973) 371-391; S. Brock, 
Syriac Studies, I, 31, 415-417 (23-25); II, 41, 320-327 (30-37); III, 38, 305-308 
(17-20); IV, 40, 236-241; V, 39, 273-279. 

Editions: On the problem of Ephrem's writings, authentic and spurious, cf. firstly 
the status quaestionis expounded by Beck in "Ephrem le Syrien (saint)", 790-791, 
and then the more recent contributions of J. Melki, "Saint Ephrem le Syrien, un 
bilan de l'cdition critique", PdO 11 (1983) 3-88; and S. Brock, "A Brief Guide to the 
Main Editions and Translations of the Works of St Ephrem", The Harp 3 (1990) 
7-29. Particularly important for the poetic works are the essays of A. De Halleux, 
"Une eld pour les hymns d* Ephrem dans le ms. Sinai syr. 10", Museon 85 (1972) 
171-199, and "La transmission des hymns d'Epbrem dans le ms. Sinai syr r 10. 
f I65v°-I78r 0, \ Symposium Syriacum 1972, Rome 1974, 21-53; cf. also S. Brock. 
"The Transmission of Ephrem's 'madrashc* in the Syriac Liturgical Tradition", SP 
33, 1997,490-505. 

We will say nothing here about Greek, Latin or other versions of Ephrem, on which 
cf, D. Hemmerdinger-Iliadou, "Ephrem grec et latin", DSp 4 (1960) 800-S 19; and J. 
Kirchmeyer, "Autres versions d'fiphrcm", ibid. 819-822; on the Greek Ephrem cf. 
also M, Geerard, CPG 2, Turnhout 1974, 366-468. 

a) Comprehensive or partial editions between the 1 8ih and early 20th centuries: J.S. 
Assemani, S. Patris nostri Ephraem syri opera omnia quae extant.., syriace-lntinc, 
vol. 1-3, Romae (737-1743; JJ. Overbeck, S. Ephraemi syri, Rabitlae episcopi 
edesseni, BaiOei aliorwnque opera selecta, Oxford 1 865 (the edition contains among 
other things, on pp. 21-58, a letter of Ephrem to Hypatius, now translated and 
commented by E. Beck, "Ephracms Brief an Hypalios ubersetzt und erkliirt", OrChr 
5S [1974] 76-120; on pp. 113-131 an Epistula ad mon tanas- now edited by Beck 
in Sermones IV, CSCO 334 / Syr. 148 [cf. infra, c)] - considered authentic by A. 
Vtiobus, A Letter of Ephrem to the Mountaineers, Pinnebcrg 1947, but rejected by 
Beck and recently attributed to Isaac of Antioch by E.G. Mathews, l4 'On Solitaries', 
Eptaemoc XsaacT\ Musion 103 [[99Q]9\-\\0);'P. Zingcrlc, Monumenta syriaca, I, 
Innsbruck 1869 (limited to pp. 4-12); T.K.J. Lamy, S. Ephraemi syri kymni et 
sermones, 4 volL, Malines 1882-1902. 

b) Recent critical editions (with information on their main translations and studies 
closely related to them): 

b.l) Prose writings: 

b.1.1) Exegelical works: S. Ephraem syri in Genesirn et in Exodum Commentarii, ed. 
R.M.Tonneau, CSCO 152 /Syr. 71 (Latin tr., CSCO 153 f Syr 72), Louvain 1955 
(repr., 1965); Ephrem le Syrien, Commentaire de t'Svangile concordant. Version 
armenienne, ed. L- Lcloir, CSCO 137/Arm. 1, Louvain 1953 (Latin tr., CSCO 145/ 
Arm. 2, Louvain 1954); Saint Ephrem, Commentaire de V&vangiU concordant. Texte 

syriaque (Manuscrit Chester Beatty, 709), ed. L, Leloir, Dublin 1963 (with Latin if.; 
French tr,: Ephrem de Nisibe, Commentaire de 1 'fcvangile concordant ou Diatessaron, 
ed. L. Leloir. SC 121, Paris 1966); Saint Ephrem, Commentaire de I'fcvangile 
concordant. Texte syriaque (Manuscrit Chester Beany, 709). Folios additionnels, ed. 
L. Lcloir. Lcuven-Paris 1990 (with Latin tr.; English tr.: C. McCarthy, Saint Ephrem 's 
Commentary on Tatian's Diatessaron. An English Translation of Chester Beatty 
Syriac Ms 709 with Introduction and Notes, Journal of Semitic Studies. Supplement, 
2, Oxford 1993); Srboyn Ep'remi Asuroy Meknttt'iwn Gorcoc' Arak'eloc' 
(Commentaries in Acta Apostolorum [Armenian version]), ed. N. Akinian, Vienna 
1921 (English tr.: EC. Conybeare, "The Commentary of Ephrem on Acts", The 
Beginnings of Christianity, ed. F. Jackson, K. Lake, I. 31, London 1926, 373-453); 
Srboyn Ep'remi Matenagrut' hvnk' III (Commentarii in Epistolas Pauli [Armenian 
version]), Venice 1836 (Latin tr.: S. Ephraemi Syri Commentarii in Epistolas D. 
Pauli a patribus Mekhitaristis in lafinum scrmonem translatl, Venice 1893). 
b.l. 2) Polemical works: St Ephraim's Prose Refutations of Manx, Marcion and 
Bardaisan, ed. C.W.Mitchell, A.A. Bevan, F.C. Burkitt, 2 voll., London 1912-1921 
(with English tr.; a German tr. with commentary on the section contained in 2, 1-49, 
can now be read in E, Beck, "Ephram Rede gegen einc philosophische Schrift des 
Bardaisan Ubersetzt und erkliirt", OrChr 60 [1976] 24-6S). 
b.2) Rhythmical prose writings: "Ephrem's Letter to Publius", ed. S.P. Brock, Museon 
89 (1976) 261-305 (with English tr.; on the letter cf. Brock's study, "An Unpublished 
Letter of St, Ephrem", PdO [1973] 317-323); Des heiligen Ephraem des Syrers 
Sermo de Domino Nostro, ed. E. Beck. CSCO 270 / Syr. 1 16 (German tr., CSCO 27 1 
/Syr II 7), Louvain 1966. 
b.3) Verse writings: 

b.3.1) Madrashe (Hymns): Des heiligen Ephraem des Syrers Jlymnen de Fide, ed. E. 
Beck, CSCO 154/ Syr. 73 (German tr., CSCO 155 I Syr. 74), Louvain 1955 (on this 
text cf. E. Beck's study, Die Theologie des hi. Ephraem in seinen Hymnen uberden 
Glauben, Rome 1949); Des heiligen Ephraem des Syrers Carmina Nisibena, ed. E. 
Beck, 1, CSCO 218 /Syr. 92 (German tr., CSCO 219 / Syr. 93), Louvain 1961; 2, 
CSCO 240 / Syr. 102 (German tr. T CSCO 241 / Syr 103), Louvain 1963 (French tr. 
in P. Fdghali. C. Navarre, Saint Ephrem, les chants de Nisibe, Paris 1989); Des 
heiligen Ephraem des Syrers Hymnen Contra Haereses, ed. E. Beck, CSCO 169 / 
Syr. 76 (German tr., CSCO 1 70 /Syr. 77), Louvain 1957 '; Des heiligen Ephraem des 
Syrers Hymnen de Virginitate, ed. E. Beck, CSCO 223 / Syr. 94 (German tr., CSCO 
224/ Syr, 95), Louvain 1962 (English tr. in K.E. McVey, Ephrem the Syrian. Hymns, 
New York 1989); Des heiligen Ephraem des Syrers Hymnen de Ecclesia, ed. E. 
Beck, CSCO 198 / Syr. 84 (German tr., CSCO 199 / Syr. 85), Louvain 1960; Des 
heiligen Ephraem des Syrers Hymnen de Nativitatc (Epiphania), ed. E. Beck, CSCO 
186 /Syr. 82 (German tr., CSCO 187/ Syr. S3), Louvain 1959 (English tr. in K.E. 
McVey, Ephrem... cit.); Des heiligen Ephraem des Syrers Paschahymnen (De azymis. 
De crucifixione, De resurrectione), ed. E. Beck, CSCO 248 / Syr. 108 (German tr., 
CSCO 249 / Syr 109), Louvain 1964 (French tr. and commentary in G.A.M. 
Rouwhorst, Les hymnes pascales d'Ephrem de Nisibe, 2 vol!., Leydcn 1989); Des 
heiligen Ephraem des Syrers Hymnen de Paradiso und Contra Julianum, ed. E. 
Beck, CSCO 174 / Syr. 78 (German tr„ CSCO 175 / Syr. 79), Louvain 1957 (the 
hymns on Paradise arc translated into French: Ephrem de Nisibe, Hymnes sur le 
Paradis, tr. R, Lavenant - introduction and notes by F. Graffin, SCh 137, Paris 
1968; into English: S. Brock, St Ephrem the Syrian. Hymns on Paradise, New York 
1990; the hymns against Julian are translated into English in K.E. McVey. 
Ephrem... cit.); Des heiligen Ephraem des Syrers Hymnen de leiunio, ed. E. Beck, 





CSCO 246 / Syr. 106 (German tr., CSCO 247 / Syr. 107), Louvain 1964; Bymnes de 
s. Ephrem conserves en version arminienne, ed. L. Maries, C. Mercicr, PO 30/1, 
Paris 1961 (with Latin tr.). 

b.3.2) Memrc (Discourses or sermons): Des HetUgen Ephraem Sermones de Fide, 
ed. E. Beck, CSCO 270 / Syr. 116 (Latin tr., CSCO 271 / Syr. 117), Louvain 1961 (on 
this text cf. E. Beck's study, Ephrdms Rcden iiber den Ghtuben, ihr theologischer 
Lehrgehalt und ihr geschUhtlicher Rahmen, Rome 1953); Ephrem de Nisibe, Memre 
surNicomedie. ed. C. Renoux, PO 37/2-3, Paris 1975 (Armenian version; Syriac 
fragments; French tr.). 

c) Dubious or mainly spurious works: Des heiligcti Ephraem des Syrers. Sermones 
/-/V,ed.E. Beck, CSCO 305, 311, 320, 334 /Syr. 130, 134, 138, 148 (German tr., 
CSCO 306, 312, 321. 335 / Syr. 131, 135, 139, 149), Louvain 1970-1973; Des 
heiligen Ephraem des Syrers Hymnen a uf Abraham Kidunaya und Julianos Saba, 
ed. E. Beck, CSCO 322 / Syr. 140 (German tr., CSCO 323 / Syr. 141), Louvain 1 972; 
Ephraem Syrus, Sermones in Hebdomadam Sanctam, ed. E. Beck, CSCO 412 / Syr, 
181 (German tr., CSCO 413 / Syr. 182), Louvain 1979. 

Studies: a) Ephrem and the Church of his time: S.H. Griffith, "Ephraem, the Deacon 
of Edcssa, and the Church of the Empire", Diakonia. Studies in Honour of Robert T. 
Meyer, ed. T. Halton, J.P. Williman, Washington (DC) 1986, 22-52; Idem, -'Images 
of Ephraem: the Syrian Holy Man and His Church", Traditio 45 (1989/1990) 7-33. 

b) Ephrem's symbolic thought: R. Murray, "The Theory of Symbolism in St. 
Ephrcm's Theology 1 ', PdO 6/7 (1975/1976) 1-20; T. Bou Mansour, La pensee 
symboiique de Saint Ephrem !c Syrien, Kaslik-Libnn 1988; A. Palmer, H 'A Lyre 
Without a Voice'. The Poetics and the Politics of Ephrem the Syrian", Aram 5 
(1993) 371-399. 

c) Ephremian exegesis: L. Leloir. Doctrines et mdthodes de Saint Ephrem d'apres 
son commentaire de VEvangile concordant, CSCO 220 / Subs. 1 8, Louvain 196 1; N. 
Sed, ,! Les hymnes sur le Paradis de saint Ephrem ct les traditions juives", Museon 
81 (1986) 455-501; S. Hidal, Interpretath Syriaca. Die Kommentare des Ueiligen 
Ephriim des Syrers zu Genesis und Exodus mil besonderer Berucksichtigung Hirer 
auslegungsgeschichtlichen Stellung, Lund 1 974; T. Kronholm, Motifs from Genesis 
1-11 te the Genuine Hymns of Ephrem the Syrian. With Particular Reference to the 
Influence of Jewish Exegetical Tradition, Lund 1978; D, Bundy, "Revising the 
Diatcssaron Against the Manichaean: Ephrem of Syria on John I, 4", Aram 5 (1993) 
65-74; A. De Hatleux, "Uannonciation a Marie dans le commentaire syriaque du 
Diatessarcm", Aram 5 (1993) 131-145; Idem, "L^pisode de Pannonce a Zacharie 
dans le commentaire syriaque du Diatcssaron", Musion 106 (1993) 255-265; Idem, 
Les citations de Mt 2. 1-18, dans le commentaire syriaque du Diatcssaron, Annales 
du DCpartement des Lcttres Arabes, 6B (1991-1992), Beirut 1996; L. Van Rompay, 
"The Christian Syriac Tradition of Interpretation", Hebrew Bible / Old Testament, 
The History of its Interpretation, 1, Gottingen 1996, 612-641 (paragraph 3, 622-628, 
is on Ephrem; a good restatement of the problem, with up-to-date bibliography). 

d) Ephrem's theology: N. El-Khoury, Die Interpretation der Welt bei Ephraem dem 
Syrer, Mainz 1976; J. MaTtikaincn, Das Base und der Teufel in der Theohgie 
Ephraems des Syrers, Abo 1 978; Idem, Gerechtigkeit und Giite Gottcs. Studicn zur 
Theologie Ephraems des Syrers und des Philoxenos von Mabbug, Gottingen 1980; 
E. Beck, Ephrdms Trinitiitslehrc im Bild von Sonne/Feuer, Licht und Wiirmc, CSCO 
425 / Subs. 62, Louvain 1981; T. Bou Mansour, "La liberte" chez Saint Ephrem", 
PdO II (19R3) 89-156; 12 (1984/1985) 331-346; S.D, Benin, Commandments, 
Covenants and the Jews (1984) {cited supra in Aphrahat, Studies [b], p. 438). 

c) Ephrem, "sons of the covenant", and "solitaries": E. Beck, "Ein Bcitrag zur 
Terminologie des iiltestens syrischen Mdnchtums", Antonius Magnus Eremita 
(356-1956), ed. B. Steidle, Rome 1956, 254-267; Idem, "Asketentum und Monchlum 
bei Ephrem", II monachesimo orientale, Rome 1958, 34 1-362 (French tr.: "Ascetisme 
et monachismc chez saint Ephrem", OrSyr 3 [1958] 273-298); A. Voobus, "Le reflet 
du monachismeprimitifdans lesecritsd'Ephrcm le Syrien", OrSyrA (1959) 299-306; 
cf. also the most recent and comprehensive studies cited in the Introduction to the 
chapter and in Aphrahat, Studies (c), p. 439. 

f) Liturgy and sacraments in Ephrem: G. Saber, La theologie baptismale de saint 
Ephrem. Essai de theologie historique, Kaslik-Liban 1974; E. Beck, Dorea and 
Charis. Die Taufc. Zwei Bcitrage zur Theohgie Ephriims des Syrers, CSCO 457 / 
Subs. 72, Louvain 1984; V. Van Vosscl, L' auction baptismale chez saint Ephrem, 
Baghdad 1984; P. Yousif, L'Eucharistie chez saint Ephrem de Nisibe, Rome 1984. 


An author who is part of the Ephremian tradition, Cyrillonas (c. 400) 
has been identified by some critics with "the presbyter 'Absamya, son 
of the sister of the blessed Ephrem", who had composed "odes and 
sermons on the incursion of the Huns into the empire of the Romans", 
as the Chronicle of Edessa recites. To Cyrillonas, indeed, we owe a 
Hymn on the locusts, on the castigation, on the invasion of the Huns, 
which, by the events it refers to, can be placed in the years 395-396 
when there was an incursion of the Huns inside the borders of the 
Empire, affecting even Syria, while the same region suffered from violent 
earthquakes, drought and famine. 

An Edessenc, Cyrillonas was certainly one of the best poets of the 
Syriac tradition. To him we owe six works, including hymns, rhythmical 
homilies and songs, devoted not just to the invasion of the Huns and a 
meditation on the meanings of wheat and its growth, but also to biblical 
themes such as the Washing of Feet, the Last Supper, Easter and 
Zacchaeus. These texts are lull of allusions to Scripture and show, 
among other things, a habitual use of the separate Gospels, thus 
confirming, as the date of their composition, the decades spanning the 
late 4th and early 5th centuries. 

Editions and studies: G. Bickell, "Die Gedtchtc des Cyrinonas", Zeitschrift der 
Deutschen Morgenliindischcn GeseUschafl 27 ( 1 873) 566-598; Idem, "Bcrcchtigungcii 
zur Cyrillonas", Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenldndischcn Gescilschaft 35(1881) 
53 1 -532 (Italian tr.: C. Vona, / Carmi di Cirillona. Studio introduttivo - Traduzionc 
- Commmto, Rome-Paris-Tournai-Ncw York 1963; French tr.: Cyrillonas, L'agneau 
veritable, ed. D. Cerbclaud. Chevelogne 1984). 


Published by M. Kmosko in 1926 with a lengthy introduction aiming to 
place il within the Messalian phenomenon, the Liber gradurn, as it is 



customarily designated, using the Latin version of the title that sometimes 
accompanies it in the manuscript tradition, has gradually attracted the 
attention of scholars by the variety and complexity of the themes and 
traditions present in it, which link it clearly to the Christian culture of 
Syria between the 4th and 5th centuries, and also by the singularity of 
the synthesis it presents, A composite book, whose exegetical-thcological 
and paraenetic material is in its present form distributed among 30 distinct 
"discourses", this text is seen by some as eminently representative of 
that meditation on the Spirit and its fruits in the life of believers which 
rims through all the thought of the Syriac Churches. It contains a close 
discussion on the status of the first Adam, called to lead an angelic life 
on earth, his mind in heaven, intent on the contemplation/glorification 
of God; on his distraction from the Creator through giving his attention 
to the beauty and fecundity of the sensible world, coinciding with the 
loss of the Spirit and the impossibility, from that moment on, of leading 
a life conforming in everything to the "perfect will of God", but still - 
indeed, only now -, in ceaseless confrontation with his own creatural 
nature, susceptible and capable of justice, in the difficult discernment 
of good from evil; on his progressive degradation, moving towards 
situations of ever more irreversible iniquity; on the work of God, who 
making use of some just men and prophets of Israel, with punishments 
and violence obliged men to remember Him, even in the time of enmity, 
until in Jesus, the incarnate Son, who in humiliation and death fulfilled 
His perfect will, He restored peace, renewed the altitudes of in principio, 
attitudes of charity, not of justice, in self-emptying and abandonment of 
his links with the world, so that man may once more, even here, be simply 
prayerful and merciful, accepting and blessing everything after the example 
of Christ who came for sinners and, innocent, gave himself for them. 
While these are some of the leading motifs of the work, whose 
exegesis of Scriptural passages shows itself surprisingly sober in its 
attitude to symbolic interpretations and its use of Jewish interpretative 
traditions (unlike Aphrahai or Ephrcm, though very close to them in many 
of the ideas it insists on), we must add that the circles that produced it 
and used it attest a sometimes profound discomfort, due to an incompre- 
hension and intolerance towards them on the part of those sectors of 
the visible Church, the one Church which they themselves confessed, 
in which, according to their terminology, justice prevailed and men 
laboured to understand and seek perfection and its works, considered 
too available to the "far off", especially in times of heresy and persecution. 

Edition: Liter graduum, ed. M. Kmosko, PS 1/3, Parish* 1926 (with Latin tr. and 
full introduction). 

Studies: General introduction: A. Guillaumont, "Liber GraduiinV, DSp 9 (1976) 




A. Guillaumont, "Situation et signification du 'Liber Graduum' dans la spiritualite* 
syriaque", Symposium Syhacum 1972, Rome 1974. 311-322; R.A. Kitchen, "The 
GatluQg of the Liber Graduum, Implications for a Sociology of Asceticism", IV 
Symposium Syriacum 1984, ed. H.J.W. Drijvers, R. Lavenant, C. Molenberg, G.J. 
Reinink, Rome 1987, 173-182; A. Btihlig. "Zur Rhetorik im Liber Graduum", ibid. 
297-305; A, Kowalski, Perfezione e giustizia di Adamo net Liber graduum, Rome 
1989 (a fundamental study, with ample bibliography); C. Stewart, "Working the 
Earth of the Heart". The Messalian Controversy in History. Texts and Language to 
AD 431, Oxford 1991; L. Wickham, "Teaching about God and Christ in the Liber 
Graduum", Logos, .Festschrift fiir L, Abramowski, ed. H.C. Brennecke, E.L. 
Grasmiick, C. Markschies, Berlin-New York 1993, 486-498; Idem, "The 'Liber 
Graduum' Revisited", VI Symposium Syriacum 1992, ed, R. Lavenant, Rome 1994, 
177-187; D. Juhl, DieAskese im Liber Graduum utid bei Afrahat. Bine vergieichende 
Studie zur friihsyrischen Frommigkeit, Wiesbaden 1996; P. Bettiolo, "Confcssare 
Dio in perfetta spogliazionc. La via del disccrnimento dei comandamenti nel Liber 
Graduum", Cristianesimo nello Sioria 19 {1998) 631-651 (with up-to-date 


The existing text of the Doctrine of Addai is the outcome of the long 
process of growth of an original narrative nucleus linked to the brief 
correspondence supposedly exchanged between Abgar, king of Edessa, 
and Jesus, on the eve of his arrest. Apart from Christ's immediate gift 
to the king of a portrait of himself, the supposed fruit of this exchange 
was the sending of the apostle Addai to the court of the capital city of 
Osrhoenc. Here he healed the king and preached the Gospel in front of 
him, his dignitaries and the whole city, bringing about its conversion 
and thus founding the Edcssenc Church. In this account is also inserted 
a reworking of the legend, datable to the second half of the 4th century, 
of the rediscovery of the cross by Constantino's mother Helena, which 
suggests a first discovery of it by the wife of the emperor Claudius, 
converted to Christianity after seeing the miracles performed by Peter 
at Rome. 

Given that the account of Abgar's conversion is cited by Eusebius 
of Caesarca in his Ecclesiastical History, "it is probable that in the early 
4th century there was a Christian legend written in Syriac that enabled 
the Edessenes to boast of having been evangelized by an apostolic envoy" 
(A. Desreumaux, Histoire du mi Abgar..., 16). This legend, established 
in the course of the 3rd century and bearing traces of clear anti-Docctist 
and anti-Manichaean concerns, corresponds well to the need for a "non- 
polemical" rewriting of the history of Edessene Christianity by a now 
victorious "orthodox" community (A. Desreumaux, Abgar... cit., 227). 
The material relating to the inventus crucis would have been added to 
this nucleus in the first decades of the 5th century, perhaps by Rabbula, 
bishop of Edessa, with the precise intention not just of further 



emphasizing "the status of Edessa as a Christian city", but also of 
"establishing a link between Edessa and the imperial house and promot- 
ing the Monophysitc and anti-Jewish ideas" very much present in this 
layer of the text (HJ.W. Drijvers, The Proionike Legend..., 522-523). 

Editions: while awaiting the critical edition edited by A. Desreumaux for the Series 

Apocryphorum of the Corpus Christianorum, published by Brepols, see the editions 
of W. Cure-ton, Ancient Syriac Documents Relative to the Earliest Establishment of 
Christianity hi Edessa and the Neighbouring Countries, from the Year after Our 
Lord's Ascension to the Beginning of the Fourth Century, London-Edinburgh 1 864 
(London mss.); and G. Phillips, The Doctrine ofAddai the Apostle. Now First Edited 
in a Complete Form in the Original Syriac with an English Translation and Notes, 
London 1876 (St Petersburg ms.). 

Translations: A. Desreumaux, Histoire du roi Abgaret de Jesus, Turnhout 1993 (as 
well as the translation of the complete Syriac text of the Doctrine ofAddai, with 
introduction and bibhography, this also contains that of a Greek version of it, by A. 
Palmer, and an Ethiopic version, by R. Beytot). 

Studies: H.J.W. Drijvers, "Addai und Mani. Christentum und Manichaismus im drilten 
Jahrhundcrt in Syrien", HI Symposium Syriacum 1980, ed. R, Lavenant, Rome 1983, 
17 1-185; A. Desreumaux, "La doctrine d' Addai, 1'imagedu Christ ct les Monophysites", 
Nicee II 7S7-I9S7, Paris 1987, 73-80; Idem, "La doctrine d 1 Addai": le chroniqueur et 
scs documents", Apocrypha 1 (1990) 249-267; Idem, "Abgar, le roi converti a nouveau 
- Les Chretiens ci'Edessc selon la l Doctrine d' Adda'f '\ Centre d'etudes des religions 
du livre - De la conversion, ed. J.-C. Attias, Paris 1997. 217-227; H.J.W. Drijvers, 
"The Protonike Legend and the 'Doctrina Addai' ", SP 33, 1997, 517-523. 


The study of the Syriac Acts of the martyrs is rather complex and hard 
to recapitulate in a few lines. Suffice to slate here, firstly, that we must 
distinguish clearly between the Western ccclesial sphere and the Eastern 
or Persian one. First of all, chronologically: in Roman Syria, the 
persecutions ceased precisely in those first decades of the 4th century 
that saw their harshest onset among the Sasanids. Secondly, as to quantity 
and quality of writings, given that Western texts are few, and some of 
these (the Acts ofSharbel, the Acts of Bishop Barsamya), while claiming 
to be contemporary witnesses to the events they narrate, referable to 
104, the time of Trajan, are clearly late works from the early 5th century, 
produced by those same circles that had devised the Doctrine ofAddai 
as a "tendentious propaganda" aimed at accrediting the antiquity and 
orthodoxy of the Christian community present in the capital of Osrhoene 
(Brock, Eusebius and Syriac Christianity, cit., 228). Much more credible, 
also from Edessa, are the data provided by the Acts of Shmona and 
Gurya, martyred apparently in 297, and that of the deacon Habib, killed 
probably in 309 - names known to Ephrcm and mentioned in the list of 
martyrs that can be read in a codex written at Edessa in November 411. 



Rather more important, both in quantity and as a historical source, is 
the corresponding literature from the Eastern sector. Here, subjection 
to a power that aimed to represent an ethnically restricted religious 
tradition, whose first guardians, jealous of its integrity and position, 
were tenaciously opposed to communities, whether Manichaean or Chris- 
tian, that were increasingly extending their presence and influence in 
those same Persian circles, explains in part the difficulties and even the 
persecutions to which the Churches were exposed, especially after the 
Sasanid kings found themselves fighting against a Roman world become 
Christian, with which they feared the Churches were colluding. 

It is thus worth taking a good look at some examples of this extensive 
literature which, from the 4th century, held up the Acts of the martyrs 
to the memories of the faithful. The first persecution suffered by the 
Christians of Persia seems to date from the second part of the reign of 
Vahram II (276-293), in a context dominated by anti-Manichaean 
repression, in which probably the Christians were indirectly and 
marginally involved. From this time comes especially a Testimony of the 
Blessed Candida, a "Roman" taken prisoner who became a wife of the 
king. Although written probably in the last decades of the 4th century 
or perhaps even the early 5th, it rests on older materials of great interest 
(on the problems posed by the dating of the text cf. S. Brock, A Martyr 
at the Sasanid Court..., 171-172; M.-L. Chaumont, La christianisa- 
tion..., 110, suggests an earlier date, proposing it as the work of Miles 
of Ray, bishop of'Susa, the great accuser of Papa bar Aggai, the disputed 
bishop of Selcucia-Ctesiphon, in which case the work would predate 
the great persecution of Shapur II, in which Miles himself died). 

The greatest persecution, however, occurred in the 4th century: for 
some 40 years, from. 339/340, the Churches repeatedly suffered the 
violence of the king of kings (the date of the start of the persecution, in 
its bloody phase, is disputed: cf. the summary of M.-L. Chaumont, op. 
cit., 160 [with note 3], though this, while recapitulating and confirming 
the views of Noldekc, Peetcrs and others on a start to the killings in 
340, omits any mention of Devos, Notes..., 246-248; cf. also, for a 
dating from 344, M.-J. Pierre, Un synode contesiataire...). The texts of 
the martyrs of these years were in large part collected probably by 
Marutha of Maipherqat at the beginning of the 5th century (the attribution 
was strongly contested, but the examination of the Armenian version, 
attributable to Abraham the Confessor and datable around the middle of 
the 5th century, ''argues in favour of the real existence of a collection 
by Marutha, made around 4 1 0, in a period of peace, starting from several 
texts earlier than itself [M.-J. van Esbroeck, Abraham le confesseur..., 
179], an attribution reinforced by the later Armenian version of the Acts 
of Marutha, dating from the 9th-10lh century, which expressly mentions 





1 1 


the redaction by the bishop of "discourses composed well and with 
wisdom" concerning the martyrs [L. Ter-Petrossian, L' attribution..^ 
130]). One of the major witnesses to the collection is the Martyrdom of 
the Blessed Simon bar Sabba'e* Papa's successor on the throne of 
Seleucia-Ctesiphon; this is the basis of the information devoted by 
Sozomcn to this catholicos of the Church of Persia, and it differs from 
a second, more recent Martyrdom of the same Simon that appears as an 
alternative to the first in some examples of the collection. 

While Marutha, probably, collected the Acts of the 4th-century 
martyrs in the first years of the 5th century, we should place "towards 
the end of the first quarter of the 5th century" a series of four Passions 
relating to the persecutions of the last years of the reign of Iazdkart I 
(399-420) and the very first years of that of Vahram V (420-438), 
composed by Abgar, a monk at a monastery six miles from Seleucia, 
whose superior he may have been and which is repeatedly mentioned in 
the Passions, an author whose authoritativeness is "first-rate" and whose 
texts are of excellent literary quality and rare sobriety (P. Devos, Abgar..., 
321-322 and 326-328). They also demonstrate a recurrent trait in similar 
writings produced by the Church of Persia: "the concern to show the 
Christians as subjects wholly loyal to the king, though they claim their 
obligations of conscience towards God" (ibid. 323). 

This literature cannot be followed further here, but it did not cease, 
because of the persecutions that repeatedly, though sporadically, tested 
the Churches of the East in the Sasanid era. An important work by 
Babai the Great on George, "priest, monk, confessor and crowned 
martyr", crucified in 615, will be remembered in its proper place. Here 
we should mention at least the History of Karkba of Bet Sloh and the 
Martyrs in it, which, though presented as a history of that city of Bet 
Garmai from the time of its foundation, is in fact mainly an account of 
the persecutions suffered by the Christian community there at the time 
of Shapur II and then, especially (the section relating to these events 
occupies about two thirds of the text), of Iazdkart II (428-447), in 445. 
Written towards the end of the 6th century, the History is the work of 
an anonymous author whom some would identify with Bar Sahde, author 
of an Ecclesiastical History of which we have only a few fragments 
included in the Chronicle ofSeert - surviving only in an Arabic version 
- and in the Chronography of Elias of Nisibis, author too of a polemical 
work against Zoroaster and, it is suggested, of the lost Syriac original 
of the Passion of Saint Shirin (t 559), also from Karkba of Bet Sloh, a 
city of whose Church Bar Sahde may have been bishop (J.-M. Ficy, Vers la 
rehabilitation..., 1964, 219-221; Devos, La jettne martyre perse,. .» 13). 
A case apart, finally, is that of the two letters written in 519 by the 
Monophysite bishop Symeon of Bet Arsham, the "Persian disputer", to 



his namesake, hegumen of Gabbula, on the then recent (November 5 1 8) 
martyrdom of some Christians of Yemen, in particular of the city of 
Najran, put to death by the Judaizing Himyarite king Dn-Nuwas. Symeon 
wrote the letters on the basis of information received from quite credible 
witnesses, firstly at Hira, capital of the pro-Persian Lakhmid Arabs, and 
later at Gbita, in the Golan, from the encampment of the pro-Byzantine 
Ghassanid Arabs. We also owe him an important letter on the spread of 
Nestorianism in Persia, whose final redaction seems to be later than 
518, date of the death of the emperor Anastasius, there mentioned as 
blessed, but which was perhaps originally composed around 505/506 
(cf. "Simeon Beth Arsamensis Epistola de Barsauma episcopo Nisibeno, 
deque haercsi Ncstorianorum", G.S. Assemani, Bibliotheca orientalis 
Clementino-Vaticana I — De scriptoribus Syris orthodoxis, Rome 1719, 
345-358; information on Symeon can be read in the Lives of the Eastern 
Saints by John of Amida, bishop of Ephesus, on whom cf. supra, in the 
Introduction, Syriac Ecclesiastical Chronicles and Histories 5). 
Repertory of texts and editions: BHO. 

Editions: S.E. Assemani, Acta sanctorum martyrum t 2vcXl. t Rome 1748 (with Latin 
tr.; anast. ed., Farnbo rough 1970); W. Cureton, Ancient Syriac Documents, London 
1864 (with English tr.: anast. cd., Amsterdam 1967); I. Guidi, "La letteradi Simcone 
vescovodi Beth- ArshatD sopra i martiri emeriti", A tti delta R. Accademks dei Lincei, 
s. 3,Men:oriedcl!a Classe di Scicnze morali, stariche efilologiche 7 (188 1)47 1-501; P. 
Bedjafl, Acta martyrum ct sanctorum, 1 volh, Paris 1890- 1 897; anast, cd., Hildcsheim 
1968; I.E. T! Rahmani, Ada sanctorum confessorum Curiae es Schamonae, adjecia 
latino versione, Rome 1 899; M. Kmosko, S. Simeon bar Sabba'e,FS 1/2, 659-1055, 
Parisiis 1907 {with Latin tr.); I. Shahid. The Martyrs of Najran. New Documents, 
Brussels 1971 (with English tr. of Symeon of Bet Arsham's second letter on the 
Himyarite martyrs and an extensive study); P. Devos, "L'abrcgc syriaquc BHO 104 
surles martyrs hirnyarites" , AB 90 (1972) 335-359 (with French tr.); S, Brock, "A 
Martyr at the Sasanid Court under Vahram II: Candida", AD 96 (I97S) 167-181 
(comprehensive study of the edition of the text and of an English version of it). 

Studies: G.Hoffmann, Ausziige aits syrischenAkten persiacher Martyrer, Leipzig 1880, 
anast. rcpr., Liechtenstein 1966; P. Pccters, Recherches d'histoire a de philofogie 
orientates, 2 voll., Brussels 1951; J.M. Fiey, "Vers la rehabilitation de V l Histoirc de 
Karka d'bet Sloh' ", AB 82 (1964) 189-222; R Devos, "Abgar, hagiographc perse 
meconnuc (debut du V r siecle)". AB 83 (1965) 303-328; Idem, "Notes d'hagiographie 
perse", AB 84 (1966) 229-248; Idem, "Sozomene et les Actes syriaques de s. Symeon 
barSabba'e", AB 84(1966)443-456; Idem, "Les martyrs persans a travers lours Actes 
syriaques", Problemi attuali di scienza c di cuttttra - Atti del coavegno sul tema: La 
Persia e il mondo greco-romano, Rome 1966, 213-225; G. Wiesner, Zur Marty re r- 
uberiieferung aus der ChrtsUmverfolgung Schapurs II, Gottingen 1967; M.-J. van 
Esbroeck, "Abraham 1c confesseur (V c s.) tradueteur des Passions des martyres pcrses 
-Apropos d'un livre recent", AB 95 (1977) 169-179; L. Ter-Petrossian, "L 1 attribution 
du recucildes Passions des mariyres pcrses a MarouthadeMaypherqat",/i/?97 (1979) 
129- 1 30; P. Devos, "La jcune martyre perse sainte Shirin (t 559)", AB 1 1 2 ( 1 994) 5-3 1 . 







i; ft 











So far, we have often insisted on the impossibility of radically separating 
the Syrian area from the influence of Hellenism, present in the region 
since the time of Alexander's campaigns, though in ever-changing 
relationships and balances with the other cultural themes active in the 
region. If, then, the period covered by this section is characterized as 
"period of Hellenization" par excellence, we are obliged to indicate the 
specific sense of this. Three facts will help us understand the reasons 

for it. 

First, in 410 Bishop Marutha of Maiphcrqat, imperial delegate at the 
Sasanid court, promoted a synod of the Persian Churches aimed at settling 
the tensions between Christian community and kingdom and giving Torm 
and stable organization to the Churches themselves, in full acceptance 
of the Niccnc faith and canons. The process begun then at Sclcucia- 
Ctesiphon met with no immediate reception, but despite difficulties it 
was irreversible, bringing to a conclusion the conformation of the Eastern 
Churches to the Latin and Greek Churches of the West. Second, probably 
between 415 and 420, a young Syrian from Persia, Narsai, arrived at 
the great school of Edessa in Roman territory to complete his studies. 
Here he was put in contact with the ideas and texts of Antiochcnc authors, 
taken up as guides to the exegesis of Scripture and the understanding of 
dogma by the circles gathered around the "Rabban" of the school, Qhore 
(f 436/437), whose theological options, however, were tenaciously 
opposed by the then bishop of the Edessenc Church, Rabbula (412-435). 
Narsai would recall thus his first contact with the books of Theodore 
of Mopsuestia, recently translated: "The readers of the Books meditated 
in ignorance until they had read his books: then they understood. We 
should give the name 'doctor of doctors 1 to the one, able in intellect, 
without whom there would have been no doctor capable of giving a 
good teaching. Through the treasure of his writings all have been 
enriched; through his commentaries they have acquired the power to 


But the spread of Antiochene doctrines, sign of a more general 
penetration of "Greek" letters into the Syrian world, did not happen 

without meeting resistance, as we have already pointed out. Reserving 
theological resistance, already operating in Rabbula's actions, for the 
following pages, we will recall here that an author of those same opening 
decades of the century, a monk and scholar, John the Solitary, denounced 
both "the heresy of two sons", introduced into Syria by Antiochene 
texts, and that taste for "the elegant word" which, in his view, was 
leading many to read and imitate Greek exegeses of Scripture, declining 
to uphold that "power of the Word" which the less refined and subtle 
Semitic understanding and languages seemed better able to receive. Yet, 
we must add, John himself is a witness to Greek interpretations and to 
debates in which recourse to Greek knowledge was not at all marginal. 

Here we have three different proofs of "Hellenization", the 
controversial but irreversible new "Hellenization" of the Churches of 
Syria, both Western and Eastern, increasingly sharing the concerns, 
problems and forms of expression that characterized the Greek and 
Latin Churches. And it was this sharing that, in the 5th century, especially 
from the second half of it, produced a division that would rend ever 
more deeply - in a way wholly parallel to what was occurring especially 
in the Greek world - urban and rural communities, bishops and monks, 
intellectuals and illiterate or semi-literate crowds throughout Syria. "Spew 
of the Dragon", Antiochene Christology had a singular bitterness for 
men who, like Rabbula, would find in Cyril the champion of the "simple" 
faith of the Fathers. The direction of the Edessenc school, no less than 
the episcopal ministry or the leadership of monasteries everywhere, would 
become objects of struggles, confrontations, schisms - even if their 
reasons were not always understood, or by everyone. 

Yet it would be wrong not to perceive the tones of the tradition of 
Ephrem or "Addai" present in many voices of the different warring 
factions, from Narsai to Philoxenus, to give two small examples. They 
are in part the tones found and cultivated in anti-Arian polemic, or those 
of the challenge to certain interpretations of the exercise of the ministry 
in a loo worldly Church, interpretations insufficiently true to the 
meekness and humility of the true pastor, the sons of the "new world"; 
more generally they arc the tones of the spiritual, eschatological dignity 
of Christian living, delivered from all creatural hierarchy and 
understanding, fixed as it is on the crucified one. the unique, most real, 
lovable rcvealer and proclaimer of divine silence and arcana, which 
persist even in the incarnation of the Son. Diphysites and Mo nophy sites 
in Syria in fact seem to contend not so much by formulating ever more 
complex and subtle articulations of Christ's ontological status, as by 
claiming for their own different and opposing formulae a testimonial 
potency, in no way traditional, towards a mystery of God and man 
(and, let us add, of their union), which they fear will be ruined once 





m P 


they turn aside, as indeed the Fathers teach, from the worship introduced 
by faith in the Risen One - because the proclamation of the resurrection 
is the true fire of Christianity. 

All these, it must finally be said, are tones that, coming from Syria, 
would reverberate in the Greek and Latin literatures, through writings 
that convey them at great length, such as, e.g., the Pscudo-Macarian 

Studies: Many of the studies mentioned at the end of the presentation oflhc previous 
section, as well as sections of those cited in the General Introduction to this chapter, 
deal with themes and problems of the 5th century and may be useful to an 
understanding of it; others, concerning individual authors, but capable of providing 
a more comprehensive picture of the events of the time in which they worked, will 
be mentioned in the different paragraphs that follow, to which the reader is referred. 
It remains to point out some monographs or essays such as: A. Guillaumont, Les 
"Kephalaia Gnostica" d'Evagre le Politique et I'histoire de I'origenisme chez lex 
grecs et chez les syriens, Paris 1962 (an unsurpassed work on Origenism in Syria 
from the 5th to 8th centuries); G.G. Blum, Rabbuia von Edessa, der Christ, der 
Bischof, rferr/ieotoge,CSCO300/Subs.34.Louvain 1969;\V.H.C.Frend, The Rise 
of the Monophysite Movement, Chapters in the History of the Church in the Fifth and 
Sixth Centuries, Cambridge 1972; R.C. Chesnut, Three Monophysite Chnstoiogics. 
Severus of Antioch, Philoxemts of Mabbug and Jacob of Sam g, Oxford 1976; P. 
Cauivet, Le monachisme syrien selon Theodoret de Cyr, Paris 1977; J. Gribomont, 
"Le symbolc de foi de Selcucic-Ctcsiphon (410)",/! Tribute to Arthur Voiihus, cd. 
R.H. Fischer, Chicago 1977, 283-294; A. De Halleux, "Le symbols des cvequcs 
perses all synode de Seleucie-Ctcsiphon (410)" Erkenntnisse und Meinungen 11, ed. 
G. Wiessner, Wiesbaden 1978, 160-190; S. Gcro, Barsauma of Nisibis and Persian 
Christianity in the Fifth Century, CSCO 426 / Subs. 63, Louvain 1981; S. Brock, 
"L'Eglise dePOricnt dans 1' Empire sassanidejusqu'au VP sieclect son absence aux 
concilcsdcPEmpirc remain'', /.rr/ttfl 40 (1995) 25-43. 


To Balai, chorepiskopos in the Church of Bcroca (Aleppo), a man of 
"Roman 1 ' Syria who lived in the first half of the 5th century, are attributed 
a number of hymns or madrashe. Among those certainly authentic, the 
one best known and most studied was written on the occasion of the 
consecration of the church of Qcnneshrin, a town south-east of Bcroca, 
the first surviving hymn devoted to such a theme. Of no interest as 
evidence of the Christian art and architecture of the time, containing no 
description of the building whose construction it celebrates, the text of 
the hymn is rich in Ephremian echoes, in particular of the Hymns on the 
Nativity, and is apparently indebted to some motifs present in the very 
different panegyric devoted by Eusebius to the church of Tyre, included 
in his Ecclesiastical History, of which a Syriac version circulated. But 
Balai profoundly renews these materials, partly on the model of prophelic 
texts, such as those of Ezckicl, on the "new temple", read by him in 

reference to the church/building. The traditional theme of God's presence 
in the "church of the heart", which Balai mentions and for which R. 
Murray, Symbols of Church..., 271-274, suggests a parallel especially 
with the Liber graduum, is in fact aimed in an original way, and perhaps 
with some hesitation (K.E. McVcy, The Sagitha..., 337), at introducing 
a "sacralization" of the space. He thus inaugurated the connection, 
destined for a great future, between God's presence in the church/ 
building, because of the Eucharistic liturgy celebrated there, and 

Editions: Balai, "Hymns (In dedicationem Ecc!csiae-5 Laudes in Acacium'\ bishop 
of Beroea [Aleppo; t 432]), S. Ephraemi Syri, Rabulac, Baiaei AJiorumquc Opera 
Selccta, ed. J.L Overbeck, Oxford 1865, 251-269. 

Studies: K.V. Zcttersteen, Deitrdge zur Kenntnis der religiosen Dichtung Balai s, 
Lipsia 1 902; R. Murray, Symbols of Church and Kingdom. A. Study in Early Syriac 
Tradition, Cambridge 1975 (repr. with corrections, 1977), 227-228, 271-274; F. 
Graffin, "Poeme dc Mar Babai pour la dedicace dc Tdglise de Qennesrin" PdO 10 
(1981/1982) 103-121; K.E. McVey, "The Sogitha on the Church of Edessa in the 
Context of Other Early Greek and Syriac Hymns for the Consecration of Church 
Buildings", Aram 5 (1993) 329-370. 


A letter from Jacob of Edessa to John the Stylitc shows how by the end 
of the 7th century the poetic work put under Isaac's name posed problems 
of attribution: in it Jacob distinguishes texts by three different authors 
who lived between the late 4th century and the first decades of the 6th. 

Some 200 memre are referred to one or the other Isaac, only some 
70 of which are published. In most cases it is impossible to determine 
their real author with exactness, due to the absence of an overall critical 
edition and full, reliable studies. The earliest Isaac, a native of Amida, is 
presented in the manuscript tradition as a disciple of Ephrcrn or, with 
more likelihood, ofaZcnobius who certainly grew up at EphrcnVs school. 
During a journey to Rome, he would have been a spectator of the games 
of 404, about which he wrote, and of the capture of the city in 410. 
Also attributed to him is a discourse on Constantinople, which he would 
have visited on his return journey. 

A second and more famous Isaac, active at Antioch, is known in 
particular for a long text on an episode of Monophysite propaganda in 
that city, concerning a parrot which the Monophysitcs had taught the 
formula of the Trisagion including the "Theopaschitc" addition: 
"Immortal God, crucified for us", whose use is attested at the time of 
the patriarch Peter the Fuller (f 488), 

Information about two other "Isaacs" is scantier: one, an Edcssenc, 
became a Chalccdonian during the episcopate of Asclepius (522-525), 

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Monastica 37 (1995) 19-39 (with Spanish tr.; this is a treatise, numbered by 
Strothmann among John's authentic ones [Johannes von Apamea, 61], On the 
economies of God: why the good are afflicted and the wicked and impious prosper in 
this age); Idem, "Giovanni il Solitario: due dossologic cristologiche", Mysterium 
Christi - Symbolgegenwart und theologische Bedeuturtg. Festschrift fiir B, Studer, 
Rome 1995, 205-218 (with Italian tr,). 

Studies: I, Haushcrr, "Un grand auteur spiritucl rctrouve": Jean d'Apamee", OCP 14 
(1948) 3-42 (now in Etudes despiritualite orientals, Rome 1969, 181-216); P, Harb, 
"Doctrine spirituelle de Jean le Solitaire (Jean d' Apamite)", PdO 2 (197 1) 225-260; 
R. Lavenant, "Le probleme de Jean d'ApameV', OCP 46 (1980) 367-390; A, De 
Halleux, "La christologie dc Jean le Solitaire", Museon 94 (1981) 5-36; Idem, "Le 
milieu historiquc de Jean le Solitaire", III Symposium Syriacum 1980, ed. R. Lavenant, 
Rome 1983, 299-305; J. Martikaincn, "Johannes von Apamea und die Entwkklung 
der syrischen Theologie", IV Symposium Syriacum 1984, ed. HJ.W. Drijver.s, R. 
Lavenant, C. Molcnbcrg, G.J, Reinink, Rome 1987, 257-263. 


Narsai was acclaimed as "harp of the Spirit", for his many well-composed 
writings, and indeed his work is central for the definition of the theology 
of the Church of Persia. Born in a village in the region of Ma' alia, at the 
foot of the mountains of Kurdistan, in the north of Iraq, where from the 
age of seven to 16, in a period disturbed by persecutions, he zealously 
frequented the school near the church. After a brief stay in a monastery 
at Bet Zabdai at the invitation of his uncle, who was hegumen there, he 
went to the "Roman" Edcssa to study aL the famous school of that city. 
At that time, between the second and third decades of the 5th century, 
the bishop there was Rabbula, a fervent Cyrillian (t 435), but the school 
was run by Qiiore (t 436/437), who followed the Antioche teachings of 
Theodore, whose writings were translated at that time through his 
initiative. Narsai's encounter with the exegesis and theology of the bishop 
and doctor of Mopsuestia was decisive for him, and he continued the 
work of his teachers aimed at integrating these insights into more 
properly local traditions. The episcopate oflbas (t 457) saw his growing 
success, culminating in his assumption of the direction of the school, 
probably from 451, amid ceaseless controversies against the "Mono- 
physite" tendency, which had a strong presence in the teaching body, 
the clergy and, more generally, the Church of the city. Subsequent years 
saw the latter "party" prevail, marking a growing isolation for Narsai 
and the circles close to him, to the point of provoking his flight from 
Edessa, seemingly in 471. He then went to nearby Nisibis, over the 
border, where the "Antiochene" bishop, Barsauma, persuaded him to 
stay and open a new school as an alternative to that of Edessa, which 
he did. The last decades of the century thus saw a clearly Diphysitc 
Christology prevail in the whole Church of Persia, strongly upheld by 




Nisibene circles close to the bishop and the school. Narsai directed the 
school with growing success, despite periods of tension with Barsauma, 
especially due to some traits of the latter's ecclesiastical policy, aimed 
at upholding a married clergy, in opposition to the ascetic tendencies of 
Narsai and the tradition with which he was connected. 

The more or less u Chalcedonian" tenor of the ideas and formulae of 
Narsai's Christology has often been discussed. The first thing to be 
observed is that it should be set within the Persian Doctor's overall 
understanding of the divine economy, aimed at restoring and fulfilling, 
in and from the second Adam, the Creator's initial design: to raise all 
creation, visible and invisible - recapitulated in the dual nature of man: 
one not ontologically, but through the friendship by which body and 
soul mutually grow, fitting themselves to fulfil the one will of their Lord 

- to the understanding and praise of divine charity, manifestation or the 
inaccessible God. This voluntary unity, somehow stronger and more 
perfect than nature's own unity, is the unity of God the Word with the 
assumed man: they are one, but their unity does not make of the two a 
new subject. The word of the one is the word of the other; the action of 
the one is the action of the other, but the very singular unity of God and 
man that they manifest, and to which they open up mankind and all 
creation, is in no way a mixture of the two nor a cancellation of the one 
in favour of the other - both situations that would compromise the 
effectiveness of the union. A. Dc Halleux, in a recent essay ("Nestorius 

- Histoirc et Doctrine 1 *, Ir&nikon 66 [1993] 38-51 and 163-177), has 
fixed the limits of the "Ncstorian" heresy of Nestorius himself: Narsai, 
more prudent than the later Nestorius in his ideas, should, perhaps all 
the more, be seen in the difficulty, both theoretical and practical, of 
reaching a satisfactory theological formulation of Christological dogma, 
in the sensibility, in the polemics, in the opposing interests, ecclesiastical 
and political, of the times he lived in. 

Editions: A. Mingana, Narsai Docloris Syri Homiliae et Carmina prima edita, 2 
volL, Mosul 1905 (major edition, contains 47 hotmlies, of the 81 attested by the 
manuscript collections; 14 of the 47 homilies are translated into modern languages: 
v. the list in F.G. McLeod (ed.), Narsai 's Metrical Homilies [cited in extenso infra], 
8-9, nn. ] 1-17; on the manuscript tradition of the homilies cf. W.F Macombcr, "The 
Manuscripts of the Metrical Homilies of Narsai", OCP 39 [1973] 275-306); F. 
Martin, "Homelic de Narses sur les trois Docteurs nestoriens", Journal Asiatique 
14(1899)446-492, and 15 (1900)469-525 (text and French tr H ; on this work cf. now 
K. McVey, "The Mcmra of Narsai on the Three Ncstorian Doctors as an Example of 
Forensic Rhetoric", III Symposium Syriacum 1980, ed. R. Lavenant, Rome 3 983, 
87-96); Homilies de Narsai' sur la creation, ed. P. Gignoux, PO 34/3-4, Paris 1968 
(homilies 49, 61, 62, 63, 64 and 65 of Mingana's list, with French tr.); Narsai's 
Metrical Homilies on the Nativity, Epiphany, Passion, Resurrection and Ascension, 
ed. F.G. McLeod, PO 40/1, Paris 1979 (with English tr.; unpublished homilies); 
Nar.saV, Cinq homelies sur les parabolas evangeiiques, cd. E.P. Siman, Paris 1984 





i:-' ; , 



(homilies 27, 33, 47, 48 and 53 of Mingana's list, with French tr.); J. Frishman, The 
Ways and Means of the Divine Economy. An Edition, Translation and Study of Six 
Biblical Homilies by Narsai, Dissertation, Leyden 1 992. 

Studies; N Sec! "Notes sur Thomclie 34 de Narsaf, OrSyr 10 (1965) 511-524; T. 
Jansma, "Etudes sur la pensee de Narsai", OrSyr 11 (1966) 147-168, 265-290, 
393^429; K McLeod, The Soteriology of Narsai, Rome 1968; T. Jnnsma, "Narsai 
and Ephraem. Some Observations on Narsai's Homilies on Creation and EphracrrTs 
Hymns of Faith", WO (1970) 49-68; Idem, "Narsai 's Homilies on Creation: Remarks 
on a Recent Edition", Huston 83 (1970) 209-236; I. Ibrahim, La doctrine 
christologique de Narsai, Rome 1974-1975; F. McLeod, "Man as the Image of God: 
Its Meaning and Theological Significance in Narsai", ThS 42 (1981) 458-468; J. 
Frishman, "Narsai's Homily for the Palm Festival ^Against the Jews", IV Symposium 
Syriacum 1984, ed. H.J.W. Drijvers, R, Lavenant, C. Molcnbcrg, GJ. Reinink, Rome 
19S7, 217-229; Idem, "Type and Reality in the Exegelical Homilies of Mar Narsai", 
SP 20, 1989, 169-178; Idem, "The Style and Composition of Narsafs Homily 76 
'On the Translation of Enoch and Elijah' ", V Symposium Syriacum 1988. ed. R. 
Lavenant, Rome 1990, 285-297; M.A. Kappcs, "The Voice of Many Waters: The 
Baptismal Homilies of Narsai of Nisibis", SP 33, 1997, 534-547. 


Born in the second third of the 5th century in the Persian province of 
BclGarmai.Xenaias, as he was called before Hellenizing his name during 
his time in the monasteries of Western Syria, was educated at the school 
of Edessa in years when the Antiochene and Diphysite tradition inspired 
by Theodore's teaching still prevailed there. Soon, however, he reacted 
against the Christological ideas of the school, which he accused of a 
shameless desire to define the manner of the theandric constitution of 
the incarnate Word. He thus returned to the concerns that had 
characterized the traditionalist positions of the episcopate of Rabbula, 
sharpened on the Alexandrian texts of Cyril and Athanasius, which the 
latter had already begun to translate. Certainly averse to the radical 
Monophysite position of a Eutyches, realizing its Docetist outcome and 
the risk of introducing change and passion into God, Philoxenus yet 
held that the affirmation of two natures in Christ resolved into a 
blasphemy against God, limiting Him to becoming a mere part of a 
composite, and a negation of human salvation itself, given the permanent 
extraneity of humanity to the divine. Only the Word's becoming "unique 
and new", its becoming "impassible", free, not essentially subject to 
corruption and death, can open up to creation a possibility that exceeds 
it. At the heart of Philoxenus' meditation is the paradox enunciated by 
the "Theopaschite" form of the Trisagion, then recently introduced into 
the liturgy: "Thou holy God; holy strong; holy immortal, crucified for 
us, have mercy on us". Decisive Scriptural evidence (Jn 1, 14: "the 
Word became flesh"; Gal 4, 4: "bom [Gk ysvouxvov] of a woman, born 




under the law"; Gal 3, 13; "having become a curse") and evidence of 
Christian faith and piety (the Nicene Creed, which insists on the for us 
of the Son's kenosis; devotion to Mary Theotokos, mother of God) 
unanimously confirm this irrenounceablc and in the end unintelligible 
confession of the incarnate Word, which alone respects both God's 
greatness and the integrity of his creature. Outside it there is no Christian 
novelty, insists Philoxenus, no new proximity of the creature to the 
Creator, but only, at most, a restatement of the faith of Israel, a faith, 
moreover, that cuts off the most theologically original elements of the 
God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Sinai, the God in exile 
with his people. 

For this faith in the incarnate Word the bishop of Mabbugh would 
fight, first as a monk, from c. 470, then, from 1 6 August 485, as bishop 
of the metropolitan see of Euphratcsia, Mabbugh, working tirelessly all 
over Western Syria, at Antioch, in Constantinople itself. After a long 
struggle against Flavian, patriarch of Antioch, culminating in his 
deposition, Philoxenus was responsible for the designation of Severus 
as his successor in November 512. After this, through a policy of 
tolerance, he sought to gain the agreement of the bishops to the new 
religious policy of the patriarchate. 

Yet the resistance of many and the accession of Justin 1 to the imperial 
throne in 518 were to compromise and finally overturn this patient work 
of persuasion. Philoxenus, having refused to deny his faith, was exiled 
to Gangra and then to Philippopolis in Thrace where, old and ill, over- 
come by the harshness of his rcclusion, he died on 10 December 523. 
Editions (works arranged in order of their discussion in A, Dc Hallcux, Philoxene... 
[cited infra, STUDIES], pp. 1 17-308): 

a) Exegetical writings: Philoxenus of Mabbug, Fragments of the Commentary on 
Matthew and Luke, td.J.W. Watt, CSCO 392 /Syr. 171 (English tr„CSCO 393/ Syr. 
172), Louvain 1978; The "Matthew-Luke Commentary" of Philoxenus, ed. DJ. Fox, 
Missoula 1979 (on these two editions cf. A. De Halleux, "Le commentaire de 
Philoxene stir Matthieu et Luc: deux editions recentcs", Museon 93 11980] 5-35); 
Philoxene de Mabbog, Commentaire du Prologue johannique, ed. A. Dc Halleux, 
CSCO 3R0 / Syr. 175 (French tr., CSCO 381 / Syr. 166), Louvain 1977. 

b) Dogmatic writings: 

b.I) Letters: Three Letters of Philoxenus, Bishop of Mabbog (485-519), ed. A. 
Vaschaldc, Rome 1902 (with English tr.; the dogmatic letter to the monks, the first 
letter to the monks of Bet Gogal); I. Guidi, La lettera di Filosseno ai monaci di Tell 
'Adda,A\\\ della Regia Accademiadei Ltncei, CI. di sc. Morali, III 12, Rome 1884 
(with analytical summary in Italian); "The Rules of Philoxenus" (fragment of a 
letter to the monks of Amid), A. Vobbus, Syriac and Arabic Documents Regarding 
Legislation Relative to Syrian Asceticism, Stockholm I960, 5 1-54 (with introduction 
and English tr.); A. Dc Halleux. "La detixieme lettre de Philoxene aux monasteres de 
Beit Gaugal", Muse'on 96 (1983) 5-79 (with French tr.); Idem, "Nouveaux texies 
ine"dits de Philoxene de Mabbog. I: Lettre aux moines de Palestine; Lettre liminaire 
au synodicon d'Ephesc", Museon 75 (1962) 31-62, and "II: Lettre aux moines 



i; !.: 

orlhodoxes d 1 Orient", Museon 76 (3 963) 5-26 (in both cases with French tr.); J. 
Lebon, "Textes intSdits de Philoxenc de Mabboug", Museon 43 (1930) 17-84 and 
149-220 (with Latin tr.); Philoxene de Mabbog, Lettre aitx monies de Senoutu ed. A, 
De Halleux, CSCO 231 / Syr. 98 (French tr., CSCO 232 / Syr. 99\ Louvain 1963, 
b.2) Treatises: Sancti Philoxeni episcopi Mabbugensis dissertationes decern de uno 
et sanaa Trinitate incorporate et passo, MI, ed. M. Briere, PO 15/4, Paris 1927 
(with Latin tr.); HI-V, VI- VIII, IX-X t Appendices, ed. M. Briere (f ) t F. Graffin, PO 
38/3 (with Latin tr.), Paris 1977; PO 39/4, 40/2, 41/1 (with French tr.), Paris 1979, 
1980, 1982; Philoxeni Mabbugensis tractatus tres de Trinitate et incarnatione, ed. A. 
Vaschalde. CSCO 9 / Syr. 9 (Latin tr. P CSCO 10/ Syr. 10), Paris 1907. 
c) Ascetical writings: 

c.l) Letters: Philoxene de Mahboug, La Lettre a Pathcius, ed. R. Lavenanl, PO 30/ 
5, Paris 1963 (with French tr.); "Letter of Mar Xenaias of Mabug to Abraham and 
Orestes, Presbyters of Edessa, Concerning Stephen Bar Sudaili the Edessenc", edition 
with English tr. in A.L. Frothingham, Stephen Bar Sudaili the Syrian Mystic and the 
Book of Hierotheos, Leyden 1886, 28-48 (on this letter cf. T. Jnnsma's study, 
"Philoxenus' Letter to Abraham and Orestes Concerning Stephen Bar Sudaili", 
Museon 87 [1974] 79-86); G. Olindcr, A Letter of Philoxenus of Mabbug Sent to a 
Novice, Golhenbourg 1941 (with English tr.; there is a short recension of the letter, 
of which a French version is in M. Albert, "Lettre inedite de Philoxene de Mabboug 
a l'un de ses disciples", OrSyr 6 [1961] 243-254). 

c.2) Treatises: A. Thanghe, "Memra de Philoxene de Mabboug sur Tinhabitation du 
Saint-Esprst", Museon 73 (1960) 39-71 (with French tr.); The Discourses of 
Philoxenus, Bishop ofMabbogh, A.D. 485-519, ed. E.A.W. Budge, 2 voll. (vol. 2 has 
an English tr. of the text; it also contains some further brief texts of Philoxenus, on 
which cf. A. De Halleux, Philoxenc... cit., 173. 175, 179, 183, 185, 186, 249), 
London 1893-1 894 (French lr.: Philoxene de Mabboug, Homelies, ed. E. Lemoine. 
SCh 44, Paris 1956). 

Translations (the texts that follow are published only in a modern-language 
translation): M, Albert, "Une lettre incite de Philoxene de Mabboug a un Juif 
converti engage' dans la vie parfaite", OrSyr 6 (1961) 41-50; F. Graffin, "Une lettre 
ine'dite de Philoxene de Mabboug a un avocat, devenu moine, tentd par Satan", 
OrSyr 5 (1960) 183-196. 

Studies: General introduction: A. De Halleux, Philoxene de Mabbog, sa vie, scs 
cents, sa thcologie, Louvain 1963 (the major monograph on Philoxenus, it is 

E. Beck, 'Thiloxenos und Ephram", OrC/rr 46 (1962) 61-76; L, Abramowski, "Ps- 
Nestorius und Philoxenus von Mabbug", 7^077 (1966) 122-125; P. Harb, a V attitude 
de Philoxene de Mabboug a 1'egard de la spirituaiite" 'savante' d'Evagre le Pontique", 
Memorial MgrG.Khouri-Sarkis(189S-1968),ed.F. Graffin, Louvain 1969, 135-156; 
Idem, "Le r61e exerce par Philoxenc de Mabbug sur revolution de la morale dans 
l'dglise syrienne", PdO 1 (1970) 27-48; Idem, "Les origines de la doctrine de 'la 
hashushuta 1 (Apatheia) chez Philoxene de Mabboug 11 , PdO 5 (1974) 227-241; L. 
Abramowski, "Die Schrift Gregors des Lchrers l Ad Theopompum' und Philoxenus 
von Mabbug", ZKG 27 (1978) 273-290; A. De Halleux, "La pluloxe'nicnne du 
symbole", Symposium Syriacum 1976, Rome 1978, 295-3 15; Idem, "Monophysitis- 
mus undSpiritualitiit nach dem Joharmcskommentardes Philoxenus von Mabbug", 
Theologie und Philosophic 53 ( 1 978) 353-366; J.W. Watt, "Philoxenus and the Old 
Syriac version of Evagrius' Centuries", OrChr 64 (1980) 65-8 1 ; A. Grillnieier, il Die 
Taufe Christi und die Taufe der Christen. Zur Taufthcologie des Philoxenus von 



Mabbug und ihre Bedcutung fur die christlJchc Spiritualitiit", Fides sacramenti, 
Sacramentum Fidei: Studies in honour of P. Smulders, Assen 1981, 137-175; J. 
Martikainen, Gerechtigkeit und Giite Gottes. Studies zur Theologie von Ephraem 
dem Syrer und Phiioxenos von Mabbug, Gottingcn 1 980; B. Aland, "Monophysitis- 
mus und Schriftau.slegurig. Der Kommentar zum Mattaus- und Lukasevangclium des 
Philoxenus von Mabbug", Sludien zur Ostkirchlichen Spiritualitdt: F. von Lilienfeld 
zum 65. Gcburtstag, Gottingcn 1982, 142-166; A. De Halleux, "Le Mamlela de 
'Hnbbib 1 centre Akscnaya. Aspects textuels d'une polemique chrislologique dans 
l'Eglise syriaque de la premiere generation post-chalcc'donienne". After Chalcedon. 
Studies in Theology and Church History Offered to Pr. A. Van Roey, ed. G. Laga, J.A. 
Munitiz, L. Van Rompay, Leuven 1985, 67-82; G. Lardreau, Discours philosophique 
et discours spirituel. Aittour de la philosophie spirituelle de Philoxene de Mabboug, 
Paris 19S5; R.G, Jenkins, The Old Testament Quotations of Philoxenus of Mabbug, 
CSCO 5 14 / Subs. 84, Louvain 1989; S. Peter Cowe, "Philoxenus of Mabbug and the 
Synod of Manazkcrt". Aram 5 (1993) 115-129. 


Born in 449 in a small town on the bank of the Euphrates, in the district 
of Sarug in Osrhocne, Jacob was studying at Edessa towards the end 
of the 460s, when the conflict between the opposing tendencies, 
Monophysitc and Diphysite, was at its height (it was in 471 that Narsai 
fled the city). There matured in him a profound anti-Ncstorian conviction, 
which led him not so much to polemic as to the custody of a simple 
apostolic faith, rejecting any adventurous speculation. The Church is 
called to rejoice always in the Lord and, mindful of this, cannot endure 
the darkening or bitterness of conflict. But this docs not mean it must 
not always be outstretched to silently contemplate its Lord, who disorients 
it and kindles it to amazement now with His greatness, now with His 
littleness - greatness and littleness of one and the same, the incarnate 
Word who, by obliging man to confess both His humanity and His 
divinity, instructs him and introduces him to the knowledge of the Father, 
to a fulfilment consistent with His perfect will. 

Jacob's tone and conduct were thus those of a pastor, anxious to 
point out God's "humble" way to his community, using images and 
considerations deeply rooted in Ephrem's legacy to the Churches of 
Syria. And indeed, returning to the district of Sarug aged about 20, 
Jacob became, at a date of which all we can say for sure is that it was 
before 502/503, a presbyter at Haura and as periodetttes spent much 
time visiting the faithful who lived in the villages of the region, Perhaps 
it was his pacific tones, little inclined to clear and insistent Christological 
formulations, so different from those of, e.g., Philoxenus and hence 
unsatisfactory to more radical Monophysitc circles, that for many years 
kept him from greater ecclesiastical responsibilities, despite the great 
fame he acquired by his poetic activity. Only in summer 518, it seems, 





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that Sergius retranslated the Gnostic Centuries of the Pontic monk, in a 
version that later Syrian tradition considered impious, but which was 
much closer than the earlier one to the Greek text, wherever it survives). 

Editions: For information on the editions, translations and summaries, mostly by G. 
Furlani, of Sergius' many writings devoted to the translation of works by Galen and 
the Pseudo-Aristotelian De mimdo, the introduction to the Aristotelian corpus 
itself or its individual problems, cf. the data provided by H. Hugormard-Roche, 
"Aux origines..." cited m/ra; if the second Syriac version of Evagrius Ponticus* 
Gnostic Centuries is by Sergius, as maintained especially by A. Guillaumont in Les 
"Kephalaia Gnosdca" d'tvagre le Poniique et I'histoire de Vorige'rtisme chez les 
grecs et les syriens, Paris 1962, 215-227, it is edited in A, Guillaumont, Les six 
centuries des "Kephalaia Gnostica" d'£vagre le Poniique, PO 28/1, Paris 1958; P. 
Sherwood, "Mimro de Serge de Rcshayna sur la vie spirituelle", OrSyr 5 (1960) 
433-459; 6 (1961) 95-115, 121-156 (with French tr.)- 

Studies: A. Baumstark, Lucubrationes syro-graecae, Leipzig 1394 (ch. 1 : De Sergio 
Resatnensi tibrorum Graecorum inierprete Syro> 358-438); P. Sherwood, "Sergius 
of Reshaina and the Syriac Versions of the Pscudo-Dcny s", SE4 (1952) 174- 1 84; 11. 
Hugonnard-Rochc, "Sur les versions syriaques des Categories d'Aristote", Journal 
Asiatiqite 275 (1987) 205-222 (important study for defining the quality, progression 
and relationships of the various Syriac introductions to and/or translations of the 
Aristotelian text between the 6th and 7lh/Sth centuries - Sergius, Paul the Persian, 
Anonymous [perhaps Jonas, correspondent of Sevcrus Scbokt], Athanasius of Balad, 
Jacob of Edessa, George of the Arabs - on which it also provides a good bibliography); 
Idem, "Aux origines dc rextfgese orientale de la logique d'Aristote: Sergius de 
Restrains", Journal Asiatiqite 277 (1989) 1-17 (good presentation, with accurate 
bibliography, of Sergius' writings and versions on medicine and philosophy); Idem. 
"Les 'Categories* d'Aristotc comme introduction a la philosophic, dans un 
commentairc syriaque de Sergius dc Resh'aina (f 536)", Documenti c studi sulfa 
traduione ftlosofica medievale 8 (1997) 339-363; Idem, "Notes sur Sergius de 
Resh'aina, traducteur du grec en syriaque et commentateur d' Aristote 1 ', The Ancient 
Tradition in Christian and Islamic Hellenism - Studies on the Transmission of 
Greek Philosophy and sciences Dedicated to H.J. Drossaart Lulofs, ed. G. Endress, 
R. Kruk, Leyden 1997, 121-143 (with annotated restatement of the bibliography on 
Sergius and, in an appendix, 140-143, an up-to-date list of studies). 


In discussing John the Solitary, mention was made of a John of Apamea, 
distinct from him and representative of Lhose Syrian circles characterized 
by a gnostic and "radical Origenism", against which Philoxenus 
conducted a lively polemic. Very probably a disciple of this John, in the 
early 6th century, was one of the mosL authoritative spokesmen of this 
tendency, Stephen bar Sudaili. 

Born around 480 at Edessa, Stephen became a monk and at once 
stood out by the excellence of his conduct and studies. And yet, his 
considerations on the eschaton, which resumed teachings on the final 
admission of everyone, just or unjust, to the Kingdom, when God would 

have become all in all ( 1 Cor 1 5, 28), met with a firm though affectionate 
refutation from Jacob of Sarug, who invited him to abandon them. 
Stephen however did not modify his way of thinking, and sought support 
for it from Philoxenus, probably because he knew of the Evagrian 
interpretations and sympathies of the bishop of Mabbugh. Rebuked by 
him too, he found himself obliged to go to Palestine, perhaps to a place 
near Jerusalem: what is certain is that soon after 512 Philoxcnus wrote 
a letter to the monks of that region to put them on guard against his 
heretical ideas. 

Little is known of his later life. Returning after many years to Edessa, 
where he died probably around the middle of the century, there he wrote 
a work, handed down as the Book of Hierotheos, certainly after 520 
and probably from the early 530s, It must be remembered that Hicrotheos 
was the venerated teacher of Dionysius, according to the pscudo- 
Dionysian corpus, and that that collection of writings began to circulate 
only after 520 and was translated into Syriac by Sergius of Rish'ayna 
before 536, the year of his death. 

Between Evagrian Origenism and Areopagite theology, then, Stephen 
worked out his extreme, original meditation, which, once more privileging 
eschatological themes, culminated in the assertion of the passing away 
and abolition of all difference and name at the moment of the rising of 
the eschatological One, in which there will be neither Father nor Son, 
neither Creator nor creature. 

Editions; F.S. Marsh, The Book which is called the Book of the Holy Hierotheos, 
London-Oxford 1926 (with English tr.; rcpr., Famborough 1969, Amsterdam 1979). 

Studies: General introduction: A. Guillaumont, "Etienne bar SoudaVIi", DSp4 (1960) 


A.L. Frothingham, Stephen Bar Sudayli, the Syrian Mystic, and the Book of Hierotheos, 

Leyden 1886. 








The periodization into we have chosen to distribute the material provided 
by Syriac Christian literature emphasizes at this point a transition, in the 
second quarter of the 6th century, from first definition and crisis to the 
establishment of the different communities that emerged from the 
Christological debate and from the more general heightening of distinct 
theological and exegetical traditions in the Churches of the previous 
century. In West Syria, the 520s saw the crisis of the first Monophysitc 
period, at the very lime when its more or less intransigent protagonists 
were dying. Only between the third and fourth decades of the century 
would the Monophysitc Churches reorganize themselves, chiefly through 
the initiative of Jacob Baradaeus, but also thanks to the consolidation of 
monastic experiences that would increasingly integrate Greek insights, 
even in the sphere of the "secular" sciences, into the training of the 
region's churchmen and monks. A man such as Peter of Callillicus, 
patriarch of Antioch from 580/581 to his death on 22 April 591, is, in 
his writings - some Syriac but mostly Greek, though soon translated 
into Syriac- a good witness to the engagement of the Syrian intellectual 
elites in the sophisticated theological debate of the time - the Christo- 
logical argument, certainly, but also, e.g., the anli-lritheist. Many 
translations, moreover, attest the interest, at least among the Melkitcs 
or Chalccdonians and the Monophysites, in an ever more conceptually 
subtle elaboration of theological and Christological formulae, and the 
growing weight of "dialectic" in the controversy. They also afford 
further proof of the close contacts and interrelationship between 
Alexandrian and Antiochenc circles: good evidence of this is the dossier 
of texts linked to the conversion to Chalcedonian dogma of the Jacobites 
Proba and John Barbur, who had gone to Alexandria in the train of Peter 
of Callinicus and were there convinced by Stephen the Sophist, first 
one, then the other, of the untenability of the Monophysitc view (cf. P. 
Bettiolo, Una raccoha di opuscoli calcedonesu 1979, and K.-H. 
Uthcmann, Stephanus von Alexandrian...). 

Between 520 and 525, accompanied by Thomas of Edessa, a man 
also passed through Alexandria who from 540 to 552 was to make a 



powerful contribution to the restoration of the "Nestorian" Church of 
the East, shaken in previous decades by a crisis that had considerably 
weakened it. There Mar Aba would have had contacts with various 
intellectuals and certainly with Cosmas, author of the 
Topographia Christiana, whose 5th book, in its Christological section 
where "the cosmographer gives way to the theologian", bears probable 
traces, it has been maintained, of the very hand of "one of his Nestorian 
friends, perhaps Mar Aba, more probably Thomas of Edessa" (Wolska- 
Conus, in Cosma Indicopleusta, Topogtafia cristiana, 14). And it is 
interesting to observe that the scornful polemic of Philoponus, in his De 
opiflcio mundi, written probably in 546-549, against the cosmology 
(and theology) of Theodore, which he also read in Cosmas, denounces 
the (presumed) intellectual coarseness of an Eastern "Syrian" tradition 
careless of Greek culture, its attainments and the problems it posed for 
Christian exegesis and theology. Whatever judgment may be passed on 
the actual quality of the teaching of the school of Nisibis and the traditions 
of the Church of Persia, wc must record a second acquisition of Mar 
Aba's journey to the West: the Liber Heraclidis, which he seems to 
have got translated between 539 and 540, viz. Nestorius' Apologia in 
defence of his own Christological doctrine, written on the morrow of 
the reading of the T&tnus Leonis and supplemented by an introduction 
by a later Constantinopolitan author. Nestorius' text (on which cf. A. 
Dc Hallcux, Nestorius...) would be decisive for the Church of Persia: 
the formulae that would be imposed in its most intransigent circles, 
finally to prevail from 612 over the more traditional Theodorian formulae 
in the whole Church of the East -at least officially, since the resumption 
of discussions in schools and monasteries would often record their 
problematic character-, were in fact Nestorian. 

The fourth decade of the 6th century thus opened a new process of 
consolidation of the Christian communities of Syria, in their ever sharper 
distinction, even mutual aversion, apart from momentary proximities, 
apart from the welcome that each sometimes accorded to writings, 
especially monastic, proceeding from the other. 

The advent of Islam, following a season of protracted wars between 
Persia and Byzantium, would oblige the Christian communities to take 
note of a new domination, whose religious status was both more familiar 
and more disturbing, due to the apostasies it caused because of its very 
proximity. But the following notes cease precisely with the first full 
awareness of the need to develop an apologetic in defence of the 
Christian faith against the criticisms made by Islam, especially in the 
Trinitarian and Christological spheres; the 7th and 8th centuries, however, 
would still be limes of exceptional flowering and authoritativeness for 
the Churches of Syria, even in the literary sphere. 





Studies (very selective choice): W. Wolska, Recherches sur la "Topographic 
Chretienne" tie Cosmos tndicopleustes. Theologie et science au VF slecle, Paris 
1962; L. Abramowski, A.E. Goodman, A NesSorian Collection of Christological 
Texts 1-2, Cambridge 1972; R.Y. Ebied, L.R. Wickham, "The Discourse of Mar 
Peter Callinicus on the Crucifixion", JTS 26 (1975) 23-37 (with English tr.); D.D. 
Bundy, "Jacob Baradaeus. The State of Research. A Review of Sources and a New 
Approach", Maseon 91 (1978) 45-86; Una raccolta di opuscoli calcedonesi (Ms. 
Sinai 10), ed. P. Beltiolo, CSCO 403 / Syr. 177 (Italian tr., CSCO 404 / Syr. 178), 
Louvain 1979; J.-M. Fiey, Chretiens Syriaques sous Us Abbassides, CSCO 420 / 
Subs. 59, Louvain 1980; R.Y. Ebied, A. Van Roey, L.R. Wickham, Peter of Callinicum 
-Anti-Tritheist Dossier, OLA 10, Leuven 1981 (with English tr.); K.-H. Uthemann, 
"Stephanos von Alcxandrien und die Konversion des Jakobitcn Probos h des spiiteren 
Metropolitcn von Chalkedon. Ein Beitrag zur Rolle der Philosophic in der 
Kontroversthcologie des 6. Jahrhunderts", After Chalccdon. Studies in Theology 
and Church History, ed. C. Laga, J.A. Munitiz, L. Van Rompay, OLA 18, 1985, 
381-399; L. Sako f Le role de la hierarchie syriaque orientate dans les rapports 
diplomatiques entre la Perse et Byzance auxV'-VH' sidcles, Paris 1986; S. Brock, 
"The Christology of the Church of the East in the Synods of the Fifth to Early 
Seventh Centuries", essay of 1985 now in Studies in Syriac Christianity, London 
1992, XII; Cosma Indicopleusta, Topografia cristiana - Ubri I-V, ed. A. Garzya, 
with a Preface by W. Wolska-Conus and a Postfacc by R. Maisano, Naples 1 992; A. 
DeHalleux, "Nestorius, histoire et doctrine 1 ', Ire'nikon 66 (1993) 38-51, 163-178. 


The Cave of Treasures, which is attested in many Eastern versions, 
bears in some mss. the title Discourse on "In principio " or Book of the 
Order of Generation from Adam to Christ. This anonymous work 
describes, with particular accuracy up to Melchizedek, then mostly rather 
succinctly, the biblical story from creation to Pentecost, making use of 
a Haggadic style. The work has reached us in two recensions, one western, 
the other eastern, which in their present form do not seem to go beyond 
the 6th century, though many scholars think it likely they are revisions 
of an earlier text, dating from the 4th or perhaps even the 3rd century. 
An early date seems suggested particularly by the work's last section, 
which forms a brief apologia, addressed to "our brother in Christ, the 
splendid Namosaya", "friend in doctrine" and "brother in the law", aimed 
at refuting the accusations made by the Jews against Mary, presented 
as an "adulteress", and their observations on the genealogy of Jesus. 

In its parts relating to the book of Genesis, the Cave of Treasures 
shows close parallels with the exegesis of Ephrcm and, in those relating 
to Adam, also with apocryphal literature and Jewish exegetical traditions. 

Edition: La caverne des Triors - Les deux recensions syriaques, ed. Su-Min Ri, 
CSCO 486 / Syr. 207 (French tr., CSCO 487 / Syr. 208), Lovanii 1987. 
Translation - English: The Book of the Cave of Treasures: a History of the Patriarchs 
and the Kings their Successors from the Creation to the Crucifixion of Christ, 
translated from the Syriac text of BM add. ms. 25875 by E.A.W. Budge, London 1927. 

Studies: Su-Min Ri, "La caverne des Tresors. Problemcs d'analv&e litteraire", IV 
Symposium Syriacum 19S4, ed. H.J.W. Drijvers, R. Lavenant, C. Molenbcrg, G.J. 
Reinink, Rome 1987, 183-190; G- Anderson, "The Cosmic Mountain. Eden and its 
Early Interpreters in Syriac Christianity", Genesis 1-3 in the History of Exegesis. 
Intrigue in the Garden, ed. G.A. Robbing, Lewiston/Quccnston 1988, 187-224 (more 
general study, containing an analysis of the contribution of the Cave of Treasures to 
ihe Syrian exegesis of the theme); A. Kowalski, "II sangue nel racconto della passionc 
di Cristo nella Cavcnia dei Tesori siriaca", Atti della VI seftimana de Studi "Sangue 
e Antropologia nella Teologia" 1987, Rome 1989, 163-173; Su-Min Ri, "Le 
Testament d'Adam et la Caverne des Trdsors", V Symposium Syriacum 1988, ed. R. 
Lavenant, Rome 1990, II 1-122; M.E. Stone, A History of the Literature of Adam 
and Eve, Atlanta 1 992 (contains a section on this text). 


Not much is known of Daniel of Salah, author of a three-volume 

commentary on the Psalms, only very partly edited, composed around 
541/542 and dedicated to a certain John, hegumen of a monastery in 
the region of Apamea. A Monophysitc author, Daniel allows us by his 
work to understand the procedures of Scriptural interpretation in use in 
the anti-Chalcedonian Syrian circles of his time. In particular, it is 
interesting to note his conscious use of some methods and findings of 
Antiochene exegesis, though this docs not prevent him, at a deeper level, 
from developing a reading of meanings of the text that are not so much 
historical as prophetic - Christological, but also relating to the affairs 
of the soul ~, explored partly through a comparison between the parallel 
readings of the Hebrew and the Greek. 

Edition: G. Diettrich, Erne jakobitische Etnleitung in den Psalter in Verbindung mil 
zwei Homilien atts dem grassen Psalmenkommentar des Daniel von Salah, Gicssen 
1901 (with German tr.). 

Studies: P, Cowc, Daniel of Salah as Commentator on the Psalter, SP 20, 1989, 
1 52-1 59; L. Van Rompay, "The Christian Syriac Tradition of Interpretation", Hebrew 
Bible / Old Testament. The History of its Interpretation, ed. M. Ssebo, Gottingen 
1996, 612-641, 639-640; D.G.K. Taylor, "The Manuscript Tradition of Daniel of 
Salah's Psalm Commentary", Symposium Syriacum VII, 1 1-14 August 1996, ed. R. 
Lavenant, Rome 1998, 61-69. 


A 16lh-c. ms. from Seert hands down a collection of thirteen treatises 
under the overall title of Explanations of the Feasts of the Economy, all, 
or nearly all, that remains of a literary genre quite widespread in the 
Ncstorian schools between 500 and 700. Explanations or causes were 
theological discourses of some length, aimed at illustrating both "the 
reasons for a certain celebration, liturgical or other" (like the inauguration 





I 3» 

of the annual courses in a particular school) "and the different aspects 
of the theological mystery underlying it ,T (Macomber, Six Explanations, 
CSCO 356 / Syr. 156, 1974, VI). Narsai at Nisibis seems to have been 
the initiator of this type of exposition, but it corresponded well enough 
to tones already present in the Edessene circles whence it came: enough 
to mention the single example of Jacob of Sarug's insistence on the 
successive moments of God's essentially educational work with man. 
Soon, at any rate, put down in writing, these explanations enjoyed a 
wide circulation in all the monasteries and schools of the Church of 
Persia, The fact of their being originally rooted in a liturgical context, 
the "economic" or salvation-historical rather than speculative orientation 
of the theological reflection they attested, the paraenctic tones, tending 
and exhorting to "virtue", on which they closed, all led to them becoming 
the favourite way, through preaching, of admitting the theology of the 
school into the liturgy of the Churches, and hence of the education and 
intellectual formation, so to speak, of the Christian community. 

In fact we have evidence of these works from texts by later authors, 
all of them directly or indirectly linked to the school of Nisibis from the 
time of its direction by Abraham of Beth Rabban (510-569/570) to the 
rather controversial direction of Henana of Adiabene (572-610), though 
some of them later taught at the school of Scleucia-Ctcsiphon or other 
lesser schools. They include: Ishai, who wrote an Explanation (of the 
Commemoration) of the Martyrs based on the words of Mar Abraham 
of Beth Rabban; Mar Aba, catholicos of the Church of Persia between 
540 and 552, but before that a teacher at Nisibis and then, towards the 
end of the 530s, restorer or founder of the school of the capital city of 
the Sasanid empire, Seleucia-Ctesiphon - wc have nothing actually by 
him, but his discourses were remembered and reworked by his disciples, 
Thomas of Edessa and Cyrus, in writings that survive; Henana, a great 
controversial theologian of the Nisibcne school in the years of the decisive 
fixing of the exegetical and dogmatic traditions of the Church of the 
East, which decided against him between the late 6th and early 7th 
centuries; and finally his disciple Barhadbcshabba ' Arbaya, who between 
585 and 596 celebrated the greatness of his teacher and of the school 
he directed, last of the schools willed and raised up by God to instruct 
men, from the time of creation throughout the whole of his "economy". 
After some general bibliographical information, we will give brief notes 
on the works of these authors and on studies of them. 

Studies: A. Vftflbuft, History of the School of Nisibis, CSCO 266 / Subs. 26, Louvain 
1965; R. Macina, "L'hommc a l^colc de Dieu. D'Antioche a Nisibe: profil 
hermincutique, thcologique ct kdrygmatique du mouvcmeni scoliaste nestorien. 
Mono fi raphicprogrammatique' , i PmcAeOriffl/areficfl 32(1982)86-124,263-301; 33 
(1983) 39-103; cf. also the 1964 and 1974 studies of W.F. Macomber cited infra: c). 

a) Thomas of Edessa, Before 540, probably between 538 and 539, at 
Seleucia-Ctesiphon, where he had followed Mar Aba who became 
"interpreter" of the school founded there (on whom cf. information and 
bibliography in the introduction to this section, supplemented by P. 
Pceters' 1946 essay, "Observations sur la vie de Mar Aba, Catholicos 
de l'Eglisc Perse (540-552)", now in Idem, Recherches d'histoire et de 
phihlogie orientates, Brussels 1951, 1 17-163), he wrote an Explanation 
of the Nativity and an Explanation of the Epiphany (the latter still 
unedited) inspired by his master's teachings. He died at Constantinople 
in c. 543, as Cosmas Indicopleustes tells us in his Topographia 

Editions: Tkomae Edesseni Tractates de Nativitale Domini nostri Christi, ed, S.J. 
Carr T Romae 1 898 (with Latin tr.). 

Studies: P. Bettiolo, "Scuola ed economia divina nclla catechesi della chiesa di Persia 
- Appunti su un tcsto di Tommaso di Edessa (f ca 542)", Esegesl e catechesi net 
Padri (secc. 1V-VII), ed. S. Felici, Rome 1994, 147-157. 

b) Ishai. A teacher at the school of Nisibis, then probably "interpreter", 
or rector, of that of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, by appointment of Mar Aba; 
member of a Persian embassy, led by Paul of Nisibis, to the court of 
Justinian apparently between 546 and 547, he was an authoritative and 
esteemed churchman. Of him there remains a single explanation, on 
the commemoration of the martyrs. 

Editions: "ISaY: Traite sur les martyrs". Twite's d'ISai !e docteur et de Henana 
d'Adiabdne, ed. A. Scher, P0 7/1, Paris 1911, 15-52 (with French tr.), 

c) Cyrus of Edessa. A disciple of Mar Aba at Nisibis together with 
Thomas of Edessa and then, like Thomas, with him at Seleucia- 
Ctesiphon; he seems to have been part of a group of translators who 
worked under Mar Aba's direction, and in particular to have made the 
version of the Liber Heraclidis, containing the Apologia with which 
Nestorius in his years of exile had replied to the Tomtts ad Flavianum, a 
version provided with a later anonymous introduction - a decisive text 
for the development of the Christological debate within the Church of 
Persia. After Thomas's death, i.e. after about 543, he continued his 
work as a writer of explanations of the main feasts of the liturgical 
year, until 551, dale of Mar Aba's return from exile. He finally seems to 
have founded a theological school at al-Hira, where, according to some 
wilnesses, he brought Mar Aba's remains for permanent burial. 

Editions: Six Explanations of the Liturgical Feasts by Cyrus of Edessa - An East 
Syrian Theologian of the Mid Sixth Century, ed. W.F. Macomber, CSCO 355 / Syr. 
155 (English tr., CSCO 356/ Syr. 156), Louvain 1974. 

Studies: W.F. Macomber, "The Theological Synthesis of Cyrus of Edessa, An East 
Syrian Theologian of the Mid Sixth Century", OCP 30 (1964) 5-38, 363-3S4. 




I . 

si " 

d) Henana. Enfant terrible of the Church of Persia, one of whose 
greatest theologians he was: from 572, the year he became director of 
the school of Nisibis, Henana was a protagonist of the contemporary 
exegetical and theological debate, provoking bitter reactions against what 
were considered his innovations both on the level of Scriptural inter- 
pretation (he promoted an exegesis less "literalistic" than that of 
Theodore, based apparently on the writings of John Chrysostom) and 
on that of Christology, rejecting the properly Nestorian doctrine of the 
Son's two hypostases. For this, in 596/597 a compact group of students, 
among them the future Catholicos Isho'yabh III, abandoned the school. 
A more decisive factor was that his teaching met open hostility from 
the circles around Abraham the Great, who before June 571 had founded 
a monastery on Mount Izla, north-east of Nisibis, which soon became 
the heart of the revival of Nestorian monasticism. Here, in particular, 
worked Babai the Great, the major architect of the triumph of strictly 
Neslorian Chrislological views, formalized in an assembly of bishops 
held in 612. Manuscript tradition has preserved only two of Henana's 
explanations, but we should not overlook the persistence of his influence, 
which would reach (it is maintained) authors like Martyrius Sahdona in 
the 7th century or Joseph Hazzaya in the 8th, nor the possibility of 
finding borrowed fragments of his OT exegeses in the works of later 

Editions: "Henana d'Adiabene: Deux traites sur le Vendredi d'or et les Rogations'", 
Traites d'Haile docteur et de Henana d'Adiabene, ed. A. Scher, PO 7/1 , Paris 1911. 
53-82 (With French tr.). 

Studies: GJ. Reinink, " Odessa Grew Dim and Ntsibis Shone Forth': the School of 
Nisibis at the Transition of the Sixth-Seventh Century", Centres of Learning. 
Learning and Location in Pre-Modern Europe and the Near East, ed. J.H.W. Drijvcrs, 
A. A. MacDonald, Leyden-New York-Cologne 1995, 77-89. 

e) Barhadbeshabba 'Arbaya. A disciple of Henana at Nisibis; between 
585 and 596, year of the school's grave crisis, produced by his master's 
teaching, he wrote a discourse On the Foundation of the Schools, very 
useful, among other things, for understanding the traditional materials 
used by the Nestorian doctors for their exegetical work. The identification 
of this author with that of the Ecclesiastical History, on which cf. supra, 
Introduction 2, Chronicles 6, p. 416, remains uncertain. 
Editions: Mar Barhadbeshabba 'Arbaya, evequc de Halwan (VI C siccle), Cause de la 
fomiation des ecoles, ed. A. Scher, PO 4/4, Paris 1908 (with French tr.). 


Babai is one of the central figures of the Church of the East in the 7th 
century. Bom in a village of Beth Zabdai, he received his education at 



the school of Nisibis, where he also taught before becoming a monk at 
the Great Monastery on Mount Izla. Called in 604 to become its hegumen, 
shortly afterwards he was unable to avoid a severe crisis in the com- 
munity that led to the dispersal of part of the brethren (but this soon led 
to the foundation of various important monastic communities, including 
that of Beth Awe in the region of Marga, whose importance grew 
ceaselessly in the 7th century). Nevertheless his virtue and his doctrine 
allowed him to play a decisive role in maintaining orLhodoxy and discipline 
in the whole Church of Persia, which in the 20 years between 609 and 
628, partly due to the pressure at court of Gabriel of Singar, the king's 
physician and favourite, an excommunicated Nestorian accepted among 
the Jacobites, remained without a catholicos. His vehement polemic 
against Henana and Justinian and his Christological construction, based 
on the mere union of prosopon in Christ between God and man, two 
natures and two distinct qnttme (hypostases?); his learned commentary 
on the texts of Evagrius, undisputed witness and teacher of spiritual 
practice and knowledge in the monastic circles of the Church of Persia; 
his work reforming monasticism itself: all these make him truly the 
great churchman and Doctor of the Nestorian community in one of its 
most difficult periods and on the eve of yet profounder transformations, 
caused by the irruption of Islam into the region. 

Editions: "Babai the Great: History of our Father and most Holy Mar Giwargis, 
Priest, Monk + Confessor and Martyr" (in Syriac), P. Bcdjan, Histoire de Mar 
Jahalaha, des trois patriarches, d'un pretre et de deux laXques nestoriens* Paris 
1895, 416-571 (Syriac text only; German tr. by 0. Braun: Bibliothek der 
Kirchenvater, Kcmpten, 2nd ed., vol. 37, 221-277; French tr. of just the passages 
relating to the polemic against Henana: J.-B. Chabot, Synodicon orientate on recueil 
des synodes nestoriens, Paris 1902, 625-634); "Babai (he Great: Commentary on 
the Gnostic Centuries of Evagrius Ponticus", W, Frankenbcrg, Euagrius Ponfiats, 
AKGWG n.s, XIII/2 (1912), 8-471 (with German tr.; on this commentary, cf. A. 
GuillaumoiU, Les "Kcphalaia Gnostica" d'Evagre le Politique et i'histoire de 
I'origenisme chez les grecs et chezles syriens, Paris 1962, 259-290); Babai Magni 
Liber de Vnione, ed. A. VaschaEde (contains the treatise De unione properly so- 
called and, appended to it, n minor treatise: Adversus eas qui dicunt: Quemadmodum 
anima ct corpus sunt una hypostasis, ita Dcus Verbum et homo sunt una hypostasis), 
CSC0 79/Syr. 34 (Latin tr. t CSCO %Q f Syr. 35), Parisiis 1915 (anast. ed. of both 
volumes, Louvain 1953); "The Rules of Babai", A. Vtiobus, Syriac and Arabic 
Documents Regarding Legislation Relative in Syrian Asceticism, Stockholm i960, 
176-184 (text of an Arabic version with English tr,). 

Studies: P. Kriigcr, "Zurn theologischen Mcnschcnbild Babais des Grossen aach 
scincm noch unveroffcntlichtcn Kommentar zu den beiden Sermones des Mdnches 
Markus iiber 'Das geistige Gesctz* ", OrChr 44 (1960) 46-74; Idem, "Cognitio 
sopientiae". Die Erkenntnis der Wahrlieit nach den unveroffentlichten beiden 
Sermones Babais des Grossen iiber das Gesetz des Mdnches Markus, SP 5, 1962, 
377-381; Idem, "Das Problem des Pclagianismus bei Babai dem Grossen", OrChr 
46 { 1 962) 77-86; Idem. "Das Geheimnis der Taufe in den Werken Babais des Grossen", 





OrChrAl (1963) 98-1 10; L, Abramowski, "Die Christologie Babais des Grosscn", 
Symposium Syriacum 1972, Rome 1974 T 219-245; Idem, "Babai dcr Grosse: 
Christologische Problcme und ihre Losungen", OCP 41 (1975) 289-343; A. 
Guillaumont "Le tcmoignagc dc Babai le Grand sur les messaliens", Symposium 
Syriacum 1976, Rome 1978, 257-265; G. Chediath, The Christology of Mar Babai 
the Great, Kottnyam 1982. 


Isho'yabh (f 646) was born ai Gdala, not far from Mosul, in Bet 
Aramayc, in the second half of the 6th century. Like many, he studied at 
Nisibis, at the time when Henana was directing the school there. Averse 
to Henana's teaching, in protest he left the city with many other students 
in 596/597 and found a welcome at Balad, where Bishop Mark made 
him head of a school founded at that time. On Mark's death, Isho'yabh 
succeeded him and in 628 he was a candidate for the see of Seleucia- 
Ctesiphon, vacant since 609. As catholicos, in 630 he found himself 
leading a Persian embassy called to negotiate peace with the victorious 
Byzantine emperor Heraclius. During his stay with Heraclius, ihe 
chronicles narrate that the emperor interrogated him about the faith of 
the Church of the East, and his replies were recognized by ihe patriarch 
of Constantinople, Scrgius, present at the meeting, as wholly concordant 
with the faith of the Greek Church, so much that the emperor "asked 
him to celebrate mass so that he could receive communion from his 
hands". The episode aroused strong protests in the Church of Persia, 
partly because of the omission from the diptychs, read during the 
liturgy, of the names of Diodore, Theodore and Nestorius, which the 
catholicos had complied with. Similar perplexities, it must be added, 
were aroused by other traits of Isho'yabh's teaching, such as his 
interpretation of the writings of Gregory Nazianzen. Yet it must be 
observed that he was not alone on this embassy. Among the bishops 
who accompanied him was another Isho'yabh, bishop of Nineveh, 
destined to succeed him and particularly intransigent in his orthodoxy, 
of whom we have some letters full of praise for the catholicos's conduct 
in these circumstances. 

Tensions, whether theological, exegetical or linked to ecclesiastical 
discipline, thus resurfaced in the Church of the East, and a surviving 
letter of Isho'yabh himself is good evidence of this. Ample trace of 
these tensions appears some years later in the activity of Isho'yabh III, 
the Great (t 659), who had accompanied his predecessor to Heraclius 
in 630. He was born c. 580 in a village of Adiabcne, to a great landowner, 
a friend of that Jacob (t 628), a monk in Abraham's Great Monastery 
on Mount Izla who, expelled from there, had founded a monastery at 

Bet Awe in the region of Marga, towards the end of the first decade of 
the 7th century, which quickly became one of the major ecclesiastical 
centres of the region and the whole Church of the East. Here, returning 
from Nisibis, Isho'yabh became a monk and here he became firm friends 
with another monk close to Jacob, whom he was later to oppose, 
Martyrius. Becoming bishop of Nineveh in 627/628, metropolitan of 
Adiabene a decade later and finally catholicos of the Church of Persia 
from 649, Isho'yabh developed a vast, energetic reforming activity, on 
which his letters also provide information; he revised and perfected the 
liturgical cycle; reorganized the celebration of the memoria of the saints; 
paid minute attention to ecclesiastical discipline and rites; and governed 
the Church intelligently at a difficult time, marked by uncertain relations 
with the new Arab rulers and a more intense struggle with the Jacobites 
and heresy, one of whose major aspects was the clash with Martyrius 
(sec infra). 

Editions: L. Sako, Lcttre ckristohgique du Patriarchs syro-oriental Isho'yabh II de 
Gdala (628-646), Rome 1983 (crit. ed., French tr. and study); Iso'yabh Pairiarchae 
III, Liber Epistularum, ed. R. Duval, CSCO 1 1 / Syr. 1 1, Paris 1904 (Latin tr., CSCO 
12 i Syr. 12, Paris 1905 - anast. ed. of both volumes, Louvain 1962). 

Studies: L. Sako, "lshoyabh IPs Syro-Oriental Terminology and its Significance", Christian 
Orient 5 (1984) 134-141; J. -M. Fiey, 'isho'yaw le Grand. Vic du Catholicos nestorien 
Isho'yaw III d 1 Adiabene (580-659)", OCP 35 (1969) 305-333; 36 (1970) 5-46. 


Martyrius represents an "ascetic spirituality", "far from mysticism, 
whether Evagrian or Macarian" (A. Dc Halleux, "Un chapttre retrouve. . .", 
258), expressed in an important original work which, rather, preserves 
traces of pseudepigraphical New Testament literature, the Expositions 
of Aphrahat and non-surviving monastic writings, and is centred on a 
confession of faith expressed in "biblical terms and in a balanced way, 
outside any dogmatic precision" (ibid, 259). Born at Halmon in Bet 
Nuhadra, he became a monk at Bet Awe, probably between 615 and 
620. He was very close to Jacob, the monastery's founder, and 
pronounced the funeral eulogy at his death (628). Consecrated bishop 
of Mahoze d'Arcwan in Bet Garmai between 635 and 640, partly on the 
recommendation of his friend and admirer Isho'yabh, then metropolitan 
of Adiabcne, Martyrius drew down the latter's wrath for "the foolish 
error of the one hypostasis" in Christ, professed by him in his Book of 
Perfection, composed in his youth, at the age of 28, as he repeats several 
times, contradicting the Ncstorian formulae, of two hypostases in Christ, 
that had prevailed in the Church of Persia since the episcopal assembly 
of 612. In reality, as we observed above, in Martyrius' case this was 



not a "heretical" development of the contemporary ChrisLological debate, 
reopened at Nisibis in those years by a disciple of Hcnana, Isaiah of 
Tahal but the restatement of a wholly traditional formulation of the 
dogma, with little interest in or care for the reasons and terms of an 
ever more "scholastic" controversy. From the early 640s, however, 
Isho'yabh, becoming aware of the work, strongly opposed his friend, 
finally obtaining his deposition from the see of Mahoze and exile, 
apparently at Edessa. 

Editions: Martyrius (Sahdona), Oeuvres spiriiuelles, ed. A. De Halleux CSCO 200; 
214- 252- 254 / Syr 86, 90,110, 112 (French tr., CSCO 201; 215; 253; 255 1 Syr. 87, 
91 Ul 113) Louvain I960, 1961,1965 and 1965 (the first three tomes contain the 
Book of Perfection; the fourth, the books of Letters to Solitary Friends and Spiritual 
Maxims); S . Brock, "A Further Fragment of the Sinai Sahdona Manuscript", Museon 
81 (1969) 139-154; A. Dc Halleux. "Un chapitrc retrouve du Livre de la perfection 
de Martyrius", Museon 88 (1975) 253-296 (with French tr.)- 
Studies: General introduction: L. Lcloir, "Martyrius", DSp 10 (1980) 737-742, 
A De Halleux, "La christologie de Martyrios-Sahdona dans 1 evolution du 
nestorianisme", OCP 23 (1957) 5-32; Idem, "Martyrios-Sahdona. La vw mouvemen- 
lee d'un Wtique' de 1'Eglise nestonenne", OCP 24 (1958) » ; lMfeLW« 
"Textes bibliques dans les e'erits de Martyrius-Sahdona", Melto 5 (1969) bl-112. 


The second half of the 6th century was certainly the period of the revival 
of Ncstorian monasticism, boosted by personalities like Abraham the 
Great or Abraham of Nathpar. Yet it seems that many themes and many 
experiences were being stated in the writings and lives of monks of the 
beginning of the next century, in years when many texts and tracts of 
earlier Greek and Syrian generations were being recovered and 
harmonized, texts not just exclusively monastic but in which, at many 
levels and sometimes in continuity with minor or marginalized traditions, 
diverging routes took shape, often intersecting and conflicting with 
former ones. 

Whoever reads, e.g., the first sections of the work by Thomas ol 
Marga a monk at Bet Awe in the Marga region and then metropolitan of 
Bet Garmal in the 9th century, on the history of the monastery he grew 
up in, describing the events that led to its foundation by Jacob (t 628), 
previously a monk at the Great Monastery built by Abraham on the Holy 
Mountain, cannot fail to perceive a tension on which it is useful to 


Thomas relates thai what caused Jacob's departure from the Mount 
Izla community was a crisis resolved too precipitately and harshly by 
Babai the Great at a time when he had recently become the monastery's 
hegumen, i.e., it seems, in the years immediately after 604. At that time. 



in connection with the scandalous conduct of some brothers, there was 
a clash in the community between zeal and meekness, the determination 
to eradicate impiety from the Lord's house and the humility of one who 
knows no other sin than his own nor believes that he has to correct 
anyone. Jacob, who was found to be mutely upholding this latter line of 
conduct, was immediately censured and expelled from the monastery, 
and even some Elders, who defended his cause, gradually abandoned 
him afterwards. But tension, if not opposition, between "zeal for truth" 
and "charity that covers sins" was nothing new: it seems to recapitulate 
the reasons for the difficult cohabitation of the just and the perfect in 
the one Church, as the Liber graduum described; to restate the oscil- 
lation between akribia and philanthropia in the Christological 
controversies, at which the Syrian Philoxcnus, among others, was adept; 
to foreshadow the tones of Isaac, his paradoxical claim, which would 
arouse dissent and opposition: "Mercy and justice in one soul are like a 
man who worships God and idols in the same house". Indeed, while a 
similar insistence on charity was well prepared by the sayings of 
fvfacarius the Egyptian, by Evagrius' exaltation of meekness and humility, 
by the tones of the pseudo-Macarian literature, whose contacts with 
Syrian circles arc certain - sources all well known and used by Thomas 
of Marga -, on the other hand ardent militancy and intransigence in 
doctrine and conduct arc certainly not ignored in monastic texts - and 
the story, told by Babai, of Mar George, "monk, priest, confessor and 
martyr", crucified in 615, is a wonderful and entirely pertinent example 
of this. 

Babai became a decisive author for later Ncstorian monastic tradition, 
partly because of his learned commentary on the Centuries of Evagrius, 
an author almost universally dear to the Christians and monks of Syria, 
which he thoroughly integrated into the theology and Christology of the 
Church of the East, of which he was one of the greatest guardians, one 
of the most decisive interpreters, especially concerning their rigorously 
Ncstorian recapitulation against Hcnana, as we have seen. Yet stirrings 
of less divisive Antiochcne Christologies would remain or resurface in 
the schools and monasteries of that Church, in connection with the 
"mingling" of man and God in spiritual experience and the eschaton of 
which it allowed a glimpse, based on the "mingling" that had taken 
place in Christ: for this, such as John of Dalyatha and Joseph Hazzaya 
would be accused of Mcssalianism. 

But this was not just a recapitulation of the Christological dogma 
closest, in individual authors, to that of Theodore or John Chrysostom, 
or of an Evagrius caught in those expressions of his that most insist on 
the union between Creator and creature. Perhaps, in some circles, it 
also reflects the presence - more submerged or at least less evident to 





us, overwhelmed as it is by the prevalence of "Greek" sources, but no 
less extensive for that - of different texts. When Isho'yabh III, even 
before becoming catholicos, reacted, on the basis of Babai the Great's 
orthodoxy, to the Christological ideas of a Martyrius-Sahdona, who like 
him had been at Bet Awe, who had even been his friend, he found in 
him as we have noted, a writing free from Evagrian echoes, reflecting 
rather the Demonstrations of Aphrahat, rich in the references and 
allusions to Scripture so infrequent in authors such as Isaac; indebted 
also to authors like the surprising, anonymous, otherwise unknown 
creed "Teacher of Charity", which sings the potency of the harmony / 
union of brothers, almost another God to God - though meditation on 
charity leads many, whether an Isaac or a Joseph Hazzaya, to emotion, 
almost to exaltation. 

So then, different routes, emergence of different memories, now 
polarized and distanced, now converging and interweaving; now kindling 
conflict and migration, now producing community and communion. Of 
these routes the authors mentioned below, all in some way close in their 
interpretations, almost even predilections (e.g. the solitary life Strictly 
understood), are valuable witnesses, often still little studied, in then- 
interweaving with the ecclesial and political events of their time, in their 
relationship with the nascent and soon to be victorious Islam. 
Studies' A recent general introduction to Ncstorian monasticism in die 7th mid 8th 
centuries is in R Beaiay, La iunuere sans forme. Introduction a hi mystique chretienne 
syw-orienmle, Cheveloguc s.d. [1987]. Among earlier source, on these monks and 
authors, see especially, for Thomas of Morgans work cited above E.A.W. Budge 
The Book of Governors: The Historic! Monastica of Thomas of Marga, 2 voll. (1 
Syriac text" 2, English fc), London 1893; or P. Bedjan, "'Liber Superiorum sen 
historic moimtcriorum auctore Thomas episcopo Margcnsi", LiberSu^rumseu 
kistoria monastica, Paris-Leipzig 1901, 1-436 (on Thomas h.mse f C f J.-N . F.ey. 
"Thomas dc Marga. Notulc dc literature syriaque", Museon 78 [1965] 361-iob). 
for the more or less contemporary Liber castitatis oflsho'denah of Basra, or Bassora 
in southern Iraq (second half of 9th century; his work seems to have been composed 
between 860 and 870: cf. J.-M. Fiey, "Ubtrtoudt, metropolite de Basra, et son oeuvrc , 
OrSyr 1 1 [1966] 431-450), see J.-B. Chabol, "Le Livre de la Chastete compose par 
Jesusdenah fiveque dc Bacrah", Melanges d'archeologie etd'histoire 16, Rome 1896, 
225-291 (with French tr.); or P. Bedjan, "Liber fundaiorum rnonastmorum in regno 
Persarum et Arabum", Liber Superiorum seu kistoria monastica.., cit., 437-517. 

1. Minor monastic authors 

Before passing on to the more important monks, we will give a brief list 
of minor monastic authors, or presumed such, with a minimum of 
bibliographical information. 

1) Abraham of Nathpar (second half of 6th century). Numerous 
works of his remain, but many of them have been quite wrongly 
attributed to him: cf. A. Penna, "Abramo di Nathpar 11 , Rivista degli 

Studi Orientali 32 (1957) 415-431; R, Tonneau, "Abraham de Natpar", 
OrSyrA (1957) 337-350. 

2) Abraham of Kashkar, the Great (t 588). Founder, before June 
571, of a monastery on Mount Izia; the rules he drew up are in A. 
Vtiobus, Syriac and Arabic Documents Regarding Legislation Relative 
to Syrian Asceticism, Stockholm I960, 150-162. 

3) Dadisho\ A native of Bet Aramaye, he was Abraham's successor 
as head of the Mount Izla community from 588 to 604; he drew up 
rules, dated January 588, i.e. the very moment of his assumption of the 
direction of the monastery: cf. A. Voobus, Syriac and Arabic 
Documents... cit., 163-175. 

4) Babai of Nisibis (early 7th century). Founder of a "small" 
monastery on Mount Izla, not far from the "great" one of Abraham, 
whose disciple he was; among other things we have his letter to Cyriacus, 
edited by S. Brock in Malpanuia d-abahata suryaye d-'al slota. 
Monastery of St Ephrem (Holland) 1988, 93-1 14 (English tr. by S. Brock: 
The Syriac Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual Life, Kalamazoo [MI] 
1989, 138-162; on its attribution to Babai of Nisibis, cf. Isaac of Nineveh 
[Isaac the Syrian], "The Second Part", Chapters IV-XLI, cd. S. Brock, 
CSCO 555 / Syr 225, Lovanii 1995, xx-xxi). 

5) Gregory of Cyprus. A contemporary of Henana of Adiabcne, against 
whom he wrote polemics, and of Babai the Great, whose friend he may 
have been, he was certainly a major author, of vast learning, little studied: 
cf. I. Hausiierr, Gregorii monachi Cyprii de theoria sancta, quae syriace 
interpret 'ata diciturvisio divina, Rome 1937 (contains an extensive study, 
as well as the edition of Gregory's seventh treatise, on holy 
contemplation, with Latin version); and J. Kirchmcyer, "Grdgoire dc 
Chypre", DSp 6 (1967) 920-922. 

6) Shubhalmaran (early 7th century). Author of many ascetic and 
polemical writings, particularly against Gabriel of Singar, the powerful 
physician and adviser of Chosroes II (f 628) who, from a Ncslorian, 
became a Jacobite; one book remains, whose edition is being prepared 
for CSCO by D.J. Lane, and of which only single, detached pages have 
so far been published: cf. F. Nau, "A propos d'un feuillet d'un manuscrit 
arabe*\ Museon 43 (1930) 85-116; G. Troupeau, "line page retrouvec 
du *Livre des Parties' de Snbhalmaran", Symposium Syriacum 1976, 
Rome 1978, 57-61; and S, Brock, the Appendix, "Mingana Syriac 
Fragments from Sinai", to "Mingana Syriac 628: A Folio from a Revision 
of the Peshitta Song of Songs", Journal of Semitic Studies 40 (1995) 
51-53; on the book and its author cf. D.J. Lane, "Mar Shubhalmaran's 
Book of Gifts as an Example of a Syriac Literary Genre", IV Symposium 
Syriacum 1984, ed. H.J.W. Drijvers, R. Lavenant, C. Molenberg, G.J. 
Reinink, Rome 1987, 411-417; Idem, "ANcstorian Creed: The Creed of 



«i u: 

Shubhalmaran", V Symposium Syriacum 1988, ed. R. Lavenant, Rome 
1990, 155-162; Idem, "Admonition and Analogy: 13 Chapters from 
Shubhalmaran", Aram 5 (1993) 277-284. 

7) 'Enanisho' of BcL Qoqa in Adiabene (7th century). One letter 
remains, unedited, on which cf. R. Bculay, Lumiere sans forme... cit., 211, 

8) John bar Penkaye (second half of 7th century). Cf. the note to 
his chronicle, the Risk Meile, supra, Introduction, 2, Chronicles, 9, 
p. 417. 

9) 'Enanisho'. Native of Adiabene, a monk, with his brother, at the 
Great Monastery and then, after a journey to Jerusalem and Scete in 
Egypt, at Bet Awe, he collaborated with Isho'yabh III and then, at the 
request of George, catholicos from 661 to 680/681, wrote a Paradise 
of the Fathers tn which he brought together the Historia lausiaca, the 
Historia monastica and the collections of sayings and lives of the desert 
Fathers, edited, not excellently, by E, A.W. Budge, The Book of Paradise,. 
Being the Histories and Sayings of the Monks and Ascetics of the 
Egyptian Desert by Palladius, Hiewnymus and Others. The Syriac Texts 
According to the Recension of 'Anan-hho' of Beth 'Abhe, 2 voll. (1, 
text; 2, English tr.), London 1904; the crit. cd, of just the Historia 
lausiaca is in Les formes syriaques de la matiere de VHistoire lausiaque, 
ed. R. Dragnet, CSCO 389; 398 / Syr. 169; 173 (French tr., CSCO 390; 
399 /Syr. 170; 174), Louvain 1978. 

10) Abraham bar Dashandad (second half of 8th century). At the 
school of Bashosh, in Adiabene, he taught, among others, the future 
catholicoi Timothy I (consecrated 780) and Isho' bar Nun (consecrated 
823); there remain a letter to his brother and some counsels, edited in 
A. Mingana, Early Christian Mystics - Woodbrooke Studies 7, Cambridge 
1934, text: 248-255; English tr.: 186-197 - according to Mingana, in 
these pages Abraham cites, anonymously, a text of Simon of Taibuthch. 

1 1 ) Nestorius ofNuhadra. A monk at the monastery of Mar Yozadaq, 
where John of Dalyatha had taken the habit, he wrote a life of Joseph 
Hazzaya; in 790, before being consecrated bishop, he had to abjure his 
i( Messalian" errors before Timothy I, who had condemned, among 
others, John and Joseph (cf. O. Braun, "Zwei Synodcn des Katholikos 
Timotheos V\ OrChr 2 [1902] 302-309; text: 304-308); a letter of his 
survives, unedited, on whose content cf. R. Beulay, Lumiere sans forme... 
cit., 217-223. 

12) Berikhisho' (late 8th to early 9th century). A monk at the monas- 
tery of Kamul T he has left a work in seven tomes, unedited, on which 
cf. A. Riicker, "Aus dem mystischen Schrifttum ncstorianischen Monche 
des 6.-8. Jahrhunderts", Morgenland. Darstellung aus Geschichte undKultur 
des Osiens 28 (1936) 38-54, 41-42; on the closeness of his teaching to 
that of Joseph Hazzaya cf. R. Beulay, Lumiere sans forme... cit., 223-225. 



2. Dadisho' Qatraya 

A native of Bet Qatraye, or Qatar, the region facing the Persian Gulf 
along the north-east coast of the Arabian peninsula, he was a monk and 
then a "recluse", as we gather from his own writings, Among the best 
in Syriac literature for quality, erudition and style, these were composed 
now in the monastery of Rabkennare, now in that of the Holy Apostles, 
on which we have no other information, but hypothetically situated on 
the mountains of Bet Huzayeor Khuzistan. Here he certainly lived for a 
time in the monastery that Rabban Shabur, born in a village of that 
region between the towns of al-Ahwaz and Shushtar, had founded near 
Shushtar probably in the second quarter of the 7th century and where, 
venerated for his sanctity, he had been visited by Catholicos Isho'yabh 
III in the 650s. When Dadisho' wrote his major work, a commentary 
on the discourses of Abba Isaiah, Rabban Shabur was certainly dead, 
but perhaps not long dead, given the various episodes concerning him 
recorded in the work, which are best explained by personal memory of 
him, close to his time - though we cannot be sure whether the knowledge 
was that of Dadisho 4 himself or of his informant. At any rate, the way 
he mentions Babai the Great in some of his other works is such as to 
suggest that he was considered an author not far off in time, though of 
a decidedly earlier generation, so we may reasonably suppose that 
Dadisho* worked in the third quarter of the 7th century. 

A passionate advocate of the solitary life in the strict sense, at a time 
when it seems to have been little appreciated, as the slightly later evidence 
of Isaac of Nineveh confirms, Dadisho' also defends a monastic, 
"spiritual" reading of Scripture, which diverges from the "historical 1 ', 
strictly Antiochcnc, reading of the schools and from the "homiletie" 
reading, of which the Causes or Explanations of (he liturgical feasts 
examined above are probably an example. The terms of his meditation, 
which was developed especially in commenting on the writings of the 
monastic tradition (lie also wrote a commentary on 'Enanisho 's recently 
produced Paradise of the Fathers), arc heavily Evagrian, and sober. 

Editions: Dadisho' Qatraya, "Treatise on the Solitude of the Seven Weeks' 1 , in A. 
Mingana. Early Christian Mystics - \Yoodbrooke Studies 7, Cambridge ] 934, 201-247 
(English tr.: 76-143 - as well as the Treatise, the edition contains a scries of short 
optiscula or extracts from further writings); Dadisho' Qatraya (VI? s), Commcntaire 
du livre d'Abba hate. Logoi I-XV, ed. R. Draguct, CSCO 326 / Syr. 144 (French tr., 
CSCO 327 I Syr. 145), Louvain 1972; N, Sims-Williams, "ASogdtan Fragment of a 
Work of Dadisho' Qatraya", Asm Major 18 (1973) 88-105; A. Guillaumont, M. 
AlherE, "Lettre de Dadisho Qatraya a Abkosh sur l'hesychia", Cahier.s 
d' OrientaHsme X — Memorial A. -J. Festugiere. Antiquite pa'ienne et chretienne, ed. 
E. Lucchesi, H.D. Saffrcy, Geneva 19S4, 235-245. 

Studies: A. Seller, "Notice sur la vie ct !cs ocuvres de Dadisho Qalraya", Journal 
Assatiqucl (190G) 103-118; P. Bcttiolo, "Esegesi c purczzadi cuore. La leslimonianza 






?; '■ 

di Dadisho' Qatraya (VII sec), nestoriano e solitario", Annaii di sioria dcU'esegesi 
3 (1986) 201-213; N. Sims-Williams, "Dadisho' Qatraya's Commentary on the 
Paradise of ihe Fathers", AB 1 12 (1994) 33-64. 

3. Isaac of Nineveh 

Our scanty information on Isaac calls him a native, like Dadisho', of 
Qatar and a kinsman of a famous exegete of the school of Selcucia- 
Ctesiphon, Gabriel, active probably in the first half of the 7 th century 
(on whom cf. A. De Halleux, "Gabriel Qatraya", DHGE 19 [1981] 
563-564). Here, a monk and Doctor, according to one source, he was 
noticed and taken to Bet Aramaye by George, catholicos of the Church 
of Persia from 661 to 680/681, during a journey he made to Bet Qatraye 
in late spring 676 to resolve a schism that had involved the Churches of 

the region. 

Consecrated bishop of Nineveh soon afterwards, just five months 
later Isaac abandoned his see with the consent of the catholicos, to lead 
a solitary life. He chose to go to Bet Huzaye and dwelt long years in its 
mountainous areas, perhaps on Mount Matut, before residing in a 
monastery close to the city of Shustar, founded by Rabban Shabur who 
lived until the 650s. Here, an old man, he died and was buried. 

A celebrator of solitude and quiet, which, if patiently guarded, permit 
the silencing of passions and thoughts and the rapid reawakening of the 
soul's "natural" motions, limpid and good, upheld by meditation on 
Scripture and the act of frequent genuflection/prostration before the 
cross, Isaac insists on the comfort which the solitary life, witness of 
the wholly Christian "great hope" of resurrection, brings to believers, 
the confusion into which it throws unbelievers, held fast in the bitter 
gloom of their despair The solitary life is a life of "emptying", an 
emptying that conforms to that of Christ (Phil 2, 7); sustained by his 
charity, it burns up the monk, the believer, giving him discernment of 
everything, merciful and silent activity, the spiritual silence of knowledge 
in which for a while he tastes a little of the power of the kingdom - and 
of this power, of the fire of its love, which burns man's heart and 
devours all his members, corporeal and psychical, Isaac is one of the 
acutest and surest witnesses. His many writings, which have reached 
us distributed into two or three distinct sections, attest his wealth of 

Editions'. Mar Isaacus Ninivita, De Perfection Religiosa, cd. P. Bedjan, Paris-Leipzig 
1 909 (text only; comprises 82 opuscula t forming the "First Part" of Isaac's writings; 
English tr.: A.J. Wcnsinck, Mystic Treatises by Isaac of Nineveh, Amsterdam 1923, 
anast ed. Wiesbaden 1969; Italian tr. of Discourses 1-38 in Isacco di Ninivc, Discorsi 
ascetici 1, ed. M. Gallo. P. Bettiolo, Rome 1984); Isaac of Nineveh (Isaac the 
Syrian), "The Second Part", Chapters IV-XU, ed. S. Brock, CSCO 554 / Syr. 224 
(English tr., CSCO 555 / Syr. 225), Lovanii 1995. 

Translations: An Italian tr. of the long second section of the "Second Part" of Isaac 
of Nineveh's discourses, still unedited, is in Isacco di Ninive, Discorsi spiritual! e 
aliri opuscoli, ed, P. Bettiolo. Magnano (BI) 1990 (besides the four centuries of the 
Chapters on Knowledge, the volume contains a tr, of sections 4, 5. 32, 35, 39 of the 
"Second Part", edited by Brock, to which is added a short opusculum On Creation 
and God taken from a "Third Part " of Isaac's writings, handed down by a ms. of the 
Issayi collection in Teheran and not yet studied in its relation to the two previous 

Studies: E. Khalife~-Hachem, "Isaac lc Syrien", DSp 7 (1971) 2041-2054 (to be 
corrected and supplemented on some points; it offers an overall view, with 
information on the ancient, medieval and humanist versions and editions of Isaac's 
writings); S. Brock, "St. Isaac of Nineveh and Syriac Spirituality", Sohornost/Eastern 
Churches Review 1/2, 79-89 (now in Idem, Studies in Syriac Spirituality, Poona 
1988, 99-108); Idem, "St. Isaac of Nineveh: Some Newly-Discovered Works", 
Sohornost/Eastern Churches Review 8/1 (1986) 28-33 (now in Idem, Studies... cit., 
109-1 13); Idem, "St. Isaac of Nineveh (St. Isaac the Syrian)", Studies... cit., 1 14-124; 
Idem, "Maggnanuta: A Technical Term in East Syrian Spirituality and its Background", 
Melanges Antoine Giiillaumont, Contributions al'etude des chrisiianismes orientaux, 
Geneva 1988, 121-129 (turning on the use of the term in the writings of Isaac and 
other 7uV8th-ccntury monks: judged innovative, its "prehistory" is traced in texts 
of Scripture, liturgy and authors of previous generations); P. Bettiolo, u 'Avcc la 
charile eommc but': Dicu et creation dans la meditation d' Isaac de Ninive'", Irenikon 
63 (1990) 323-345; S. Brock, "Some Uses of the Term Thcoria in the Writings of 
Isaac of Nineveh", PdO 20 (1995) 407-419; H.M. Hunt, The Soul's Sorrow in 
Syrian Patristic Thought, SP 33. 1997, 530-533 (brief, acute contribution devoted, 
despite the title, just to Isaac of Nineveh); P. Bettiolo, " 'Prigionieri dello Spirito'. 
Liberia creaturale ed 'eschaton 1 in Isacco di Ninivc", Annaii di Scienze Religiose 4 
(1999) 343-363, Cf. supra, Greek Literature of Syria, pp. 225-228. 

4. Simon of Taihuthcli 

Wc have only minimal information about Simon of Taibutha or Taibuthch, 
"called Luke, disciple of Rabban Shabur, Huzite 4 ', a monk and one of 
the best physicians of his generation (hence perhaps the nickname Luke). 
Wc know, e.g., that he was the author of various works, medical and 
spiritual, including a lost Life of Mar Gani, a discourse on the cell, 
various minor opuscula and/or extracts, surviving in a single codex, 
including a tasteful and instructive episode relating to Rabban Shabur, 
and finally a Book of Grace (grace in Syriac is taibutha, so he may 
have been called Simon "of grace" from the book he wrote and by 
which he was known), in seven centuries, which recounts memories of 
monks and hermits who had lived and still lived on Mount Matut. Since 
Mar Gani, whose life he seems to have told, received the monastic habit 
from Abraham of Kashkar, called the Great (f 588), on Mount Izla and 
then founded a monastery near Kashkar itself, in southern Babylonia; 
since Rabban Shabur must have lived in Bet Huzaye at least until the 
650s; and since Mount Matut, where Isaac of Nineveh lived soon after 
676 before going down to the monastery of Rabban Shabur, is in that 



same region, where was also the city of Bet Lapat or Gondisapor, then 
famous for its schools of medicine and theology, both subject to the 
jurisdiction of the local bishop: all these allow us to place Simon in the 
last third of the 7th century, in Bet Huzaye, in circles very close to 
those that gathered around Rabban Shabur or, more precisely, around 
the monastery he had founded. 

A learned monk, like others of his generation (he commented on 
Pseudo-Dionysius, he knew Evagrius, Mark, Isaiah, Macarius and Basil), 
he insisted particularly on the teaching of the "good of the soul", poverty 
and "idioteia", which alone give believers that "Jiving and intelligible- 
light which is the light of the humility, meekness and freedom of Christ 
and of his kingdom, which comes of itself, "not through observances". 
The cross of Jesus, cross of ignominy and glory, is in fact the sole 
"justice of all", "salvation of all", nor does the Christian have any other 
"work" than that of believing this. 

Editions: A. Mingana, Early Christian Mystics - Woodbrooke Studies 7, Cambridge 
1934 282-320 (English tr,; 10-69 - contains a series of opuscula and extracts from 
a Book by Simon, which forms section XXXII of a Syriac Recueil d'Auteurs ascetiques 
nestorims du VIP et VHP siecie, as J.-M. Voste, in a study appearing under that title 
in Angelicum 6 [1929] 143-206, designates the ms. of 1289, from a copy of which 
Mingana took the material he published; an Italian tr.. including the version of a 
further unedited section [X] of the collection indicated above, containing a Discourse 
Spoken on the Day of the Consecration of a Cell by Simon, is in Simone di Taibuteh, 
Vwlenza e grazia - La coltura del cuore, ed. P. Bettiolo, Rome 1992). 
Studies: G. Bunge, "Marlsaak von Ninive und scin "Buch dcr Gnade' ", Ostkirchlichc 
Sutdien 34/1 (1985) 3-22 (relating to an unedited text which manuscript tradition 
attributes to Isaac of Nineveh, but which must be relnrned to Simon, as demonstrated 
by D Miller in his introduction to the Ascetical Homilies of Sain! Isaac the Syrian, 
Boston [MAI 1984, lxxxi-lxxxv, and by the following study); P. Bettiolo, "Povcrta 
e conoscenza. Appunti suite Centurie gnostiche della tradizione evagriana in Strta", 
PdO 15(1988-1989) 107-125. 

5. John of Dalyotha 

John came from northern Bet Nuhadrn, the region that coincides with 
the Nineveh plain, between the Mesopotamian steppe and the mountains 
of Qardu. In early youth he frequented the monastery, some 20 kilometres 
from his village, that Mar Afnimaran had founded in the 7th century 
after abandoning Bet Awe due lo an accusation of "Messalianism", and 
in which one of his disciples, Maran Zeka, bishop of Hcdatta after 741, 
still lived. John later took the monastic habit in the more distant 
monastery of Mar Yuzadaq, in Qardu, founded at the time of ihc catholicos 
and patriarch Isho'yabh II (628-645); soon after John's death, in 790, 
its monks were caught up in an accusation of "Mcssalianism". His teacher 
here was another disciple of Mar Afnimaran, blessed Stephen, while his 



spiritual father was Jacob the Seer, a novice at Bet Awe from 647 to 
648 who had then fled that monastery because of the brothers' 
"jealousy". These dates allow us to place John's novitiate in the first 
years or decades of the 8th century, in circles perhaps not wholly 
conformed lo the stricter orthodoxy of the Church of Persia. After a 
period of common life, John retired to the mountain of Bet Dalyatha, 
probably beyond Qardu, between the mountains that rise to the cast and 
north-east of that region. Here he composed at least part of his works, 
before old age 'forced him to return to Qardu, where he died at an 
advanced age, surrounded by various disciples, in the monastery of 
Jacob Abila (the monk), which they had rebuilt. 

Accused by Timothy I in 786/787 or 790, in a synod to which we 
will return (see p. 486), of theological and Christological errors (in a 
homily On the Contemplation of the Holy Trinity, it was said, he had 
upheld Sabellian ideas by speaking of the Son and the Spirit as Powers 
of the Father, and elsewhere too he had accused of "delirium" those 
who denied to the nature of the assumed man the vision of the nature of 
Him who had assumed him), John in fact developed a careful meditation 
on the divine "glory", distinct from His essence, which allowed him to 
"force" the narrower interpretations of the dogmatic tradition of his 
Church - as formalized in its later pronouncements, which aimed to 
exclude any transcendence by the creature, even the man Jesus, of 
crcatural limits - while respecting its letter and requirements. A man of 
"ardent desires", he has a style that favours the liveliness and tenderness 
of the affections and experiences he brings to expression, yet indebted 
to the teaching of the Macarian or Evagrian texts, long meditated, which 
he interprets in an original way. 

Editions: B.E. Colless, The Mysticism of John Saba, Melbourne 1 969 (thesis contain- 
ing an edition, with English tr., of John of Dalyatha's Homilies); R. Bculay, Lo collection 
des Lettres de Jean dc Dalyatha, PO 39/3, Turnhout 1978 (with French tr.). 

Studies: General introduction: R. Beulay, "Jean de Dalyatha", DSp 8 (1974) 449-452. 
B.E. Colless, "Le mystere de Jean Saba", OrSyr 8 (1963) 87-106; R. Beulay, "Jean 
de Dalyatha et sa Lettre XV C ", PdO 2 (1971) 261-279; B.E. Colless, "The Biographies 
of John Saba", PdO 3 (1972) 45-63; Idem, "The Mysticism of John Saba", OCP 39 
(1973) 83-102; R. Bculay, "Precisions touchant Tidcntite et la biographic de Jean 
Saba de Dalyatha", PdO 8 (1977- 1 978) 87-116; Idem, L'enseignement spirituel de 
Jean de Dalvatha, mystique syricn-oviental du VHP sidcle, Paris 1990. 

6. Joseph Hazzaya 

Joseph was of Persian origin, a Mazdean, son of a "magus" who had 
become "head of magi", i.e. in charge of the clergy in a great temple. A 
native of the city of Nimrod, probably on the Tigris, south of Mosul, 
aged seven he was captured by the troops of Caliph "Umarll (717-720), 
who had suppressed an insurrection of its inhabitants - which allows 




us to place Joseph's birth between about 710 and 713, Sold as a slave 
first to an Arab and then to a Christian or Qardu, and impressed by the 
life led by the monks of the monastery of Mar John of Kamul near 
which he was living, he chose baptism. For his zeal, his master 
enfranchised him and he became a monk at the monastery of Abba Sliwa 
in Bet Nuhadra. Retiring later to Qardu to live a solitary life, he was then 
made hegumen of the monastery of Mar Basima there, which he left for 
a new retreat, this time in Adiabenc, on Mount Sinai, between the Great 
and Little Zab. Put once more at the head of a monastery, that of Rabban 
Bokhtisho', near the place of his hermitage, he held this position perhaps 
until his death at an advanced age. The uncertainty depends on the 
ambiguity of a notice of the condemnation of him and other monks 
slightly earlier than himself at the synod that met in 786/787 or 790 
under the presidency of Catholicos Timothy I (779-823). It seems that he 
was removed from his monastery at this time, and this seems confirmed 
by the fact that he was not buried there, but in that of Mar Athqen. 

Joseph was the author of numerous works, part of which he wrote 
under the name of 'Abdisho', assumed by a brother of his after 
conversion and entry into monastic life. Little of this has survived, 
however, and still less is edited. Despite this there is enough evidence to 
show Joseph as a writer capable of working out a vast, clear synthesis 
of the themes, thoughts and experiences put forward by earlier authors 
and monks, though this clear systematic preoccupation, oriented mainly 
on Evagrian teaching, docs not replace or attenuate the effectiveness of 
bis proof of the spiritual conduct of which he writes. 

General introduction: R. Beulay, "Joseph Hazzaya", DSp 8 (1974) 1341-1349; 
Rabban Jausep Hazzaya, Briefs iiber das gcistlichcn Lebcn und verwandte Srhriften, 
with Introduction and tr. by G. Bunge, Trier 1982 (contains a general introduction to 
the author and an annotated translation of some of his important writings, still 
unedited, with good information on their manuscript tradition). 

Editions: Joseph Hazzaya, Writings, in A. Mingana, Early Christian Mystics - 
Woodbrooke Studies 7, Cambridge 1934,256-281 (English tr.: 148- 184; comprises a 
"fifth letter" of Joseph, 256-260 [text], 178-184 [tr.], of which a longer, but still 
partial, version has been edited and translated into French by E. Khalife'-Hachem in 
"Deux textes du Pseudo-Nil identifies", Melto 5 [ 1 969] 17-59, here 24 ff., from a ms. 
of far from excellent quality - so G. Bunge m Briefe,.. cit., p. 65, no. 91, who gives 
a German tr, of it, on the basis of the whole manuscript tradition, on pp. 239-259 
[nos. 260-262]; two chapters, perhaps, of a work On Spiritual Contemplation, 
262-272 [text] 148-162 [tr,] [German tr. in Briefe... cit., 263-268, 269-287]; an 
opusculumon the motions produced in the intellect at the moment of prayer, 272-274 
[text], 163-165 [tr.] [German tr. in Briefe... cit., 289-294]; and a further letter, the 
second of the two later edited by Beulay in the appendix to the letters of John of 
Dalyatha); Joseph Hazzaya, Two letters, in R. Beulay, La collection des lettres de 
Jean de Dalyatha, PO 39/3, Turnhout 1978, Appendix II, 500-521 (with French tr.; 
these arc letters 48-49 of John's epistolary corpus* to be attributed to Joseph -cf. 



ibid., Introduction, 295-297); Joseph Hazzaya, Lettre sur les trois Stapes de la vie 
monastique, cd. P. Harb, F. Graff tn, with the collaboration of M. Albert, PO 45/2, 
Turnhout 1992 (formerly edited and translated as a work of Philoxenus: cf. 
bibliography and discussion of the problem: ibid.. Introduction, 263-269). 

Studies: A. Scher, "Joseph Hazzaya ecrivain syriaque du VIII C siecle", Rivista degli 
studi orientali 3 {1910) 45-63; A. Guillaumont, "Sources de la doctrine de Joseph 
Hazzaya", OrSyr 3 (1958) 3-24; E.J. Sherry, "The Life and Works of Joseph 
Hazzaya", The Seed of Wisdom. Essays in Honour of T.J. Meek, London 1964, 
78-91; R. Beulay, "Des Centuries de Joseph Hazzaya retrouve'es?", PdO 3 (1972) 
5-44", G. Bunge, "Le 'lieu de la limpidite". A propos d'un apophtegme e'nigmatique: 
Budge II, 494", Irenikon 55 (1982) 7-18; N. Sc*d, "La Shckhinta ct ses amis 
'arameens* ", Melanges Antoine Guillaumont. Contributions a V4tude des 
chrishanismes orientaux, Geneva 1988, 233-242 (the study begins by pointing out 
the targumic uses of the divine shckhinta in some places of the Peshina of Chronicles, 
then explores its recurrences in Ephrem, Isaac of Nineveh and Joseph Hazzaya, 
whom in particular it credits with "having grasped, through the splendour of the 
Shckhinta, the figure of a Woman, ruler of the Universe" [242]); M. Albert, "La 
doctrine spirituelle dc Joseph Hazzaya", Centre d'e'tudes des religions du livre - De 
la conversion, ed. J.-C. Attias, Paris 1997, 205-215. 


1, Jacob of Edessa 

Born in a village near Antioch in c. 633, in his youth Jacob entered the 
monastery of Qenncshre, on the left bank of the Euphrates, opposite 
Europos, founded in 521 by John bar Aphlhonia (| 537), learned author 
of, among other things, a biography of Severus [though cf. p. 196], 
who had made it a centre of Greek and Syriac studies (on him cf. the 
life edited and translated into French by F. Naii in Revue de V Orient 
Chretien 7 [1902] 97-135). Here taught and resided the aged bishop 
Scvcrus Sebokt (t 667), translator at least of Paul the Persian's 
commentary on the De interpretatione of Aristotle, whose writings on 
logic he had widely discussed in individual letters, following the example 
of the Neoplatonist Aristotelian authors of Alexandria, and also writer 
of important works of astronomy (on him cf. G.J, Reinink, "Severus 
Scbokts Brief an den Periodcutcs Jonan. Einigc Fragcn zur aristotelischen 
Logik", HI Symposium Syriacum 1980, ed. R. Lavenant, Rome 1983, 
97-107). Jacob later left the monastery and, after a journey to study at 
Alexandria, settled at Edessa, where in 684 he was consecrated bishop 
of the local Church by Patriarch Athanasius II, himself a man of study, 
formed in Scvcrus* school at Qenneshre, His episcopate was brief, 
however, due to the growing difficulties that his reforming and 
disciplinary work encountered among the Edesscnc clergy. After four 
years, he left his Church and retired to lead a monastic life of study and 
teaching. He made translations and wrote learned commentaries, rich in 






scientific notes, on Scripture, especially the Old Testament. He also 
compiled a Chronicle that continued Eusebius of Cacsarea's Ecclesiastical 
History (cf. supra, Introduction 2. Chronicles 10, p, 417) and composed 
a philosophical Enchiridion dealing with the concepts, essential for 
Trinitarian theology and Christology, of essence, hypostasis, nature and 
prosopon. His minor writings include one on orthography. Twenty years 
later, however, on the death of his successor, he was recalled and came 
back to occupy the see of Edessa, if only for a few months, since soon 
afterwards he died during a journey, 5 June 708. 

Editions: G. Phillips, Scholia on Some Passages of the Old Testament by Mar Jacob, 
Bishop ofEdessa, London 1864 (with English tr.); Jacobs Edcsseni Hexaemeron sen 
in opus creationis libri septem, ed. I.-B. Chabot, CSCO 92 / Syr. 44, Paris 192S 
(Latin tr. by A. Vaschalde, CSCO 91 / Syr. 48, Louvain 1932); K.-E. Rignell, A Letter 
of Jacob ofEdessa to John the Stylite of Litarb concerning Ecclesiastical Canons, 
Lund 1979; M. Cook, Early Muslim Dogma, Cambridge 1981 (contains An EptstU 
of Jacob ofEdessa, 145-152), 

Studies: General introduction: H.J.W. Drijvers, "Jakob von Edessa", TRE 16 (1987) 

T. Jansma, "The Provenance of the Last Sections in the Roman Edition of Ephracm's 
Commentary on Exodus' 1 , Motion 85 (1972) 155-169; S. Brock, "Jacob of Edcssa's 
Discourse on the Myron", OrChr 63 (1979) 20-36; F. Graffin, "Jacques d'Edesse 
rdviseur des Homelies de Severe d'Antioche d'apres le ms syriaque BM Add. 12159", 
Symposium Syriacum 1976, Rome 1978, 243-255; A. Salvesen, "Spirits in Jacob of 
Edcssa's Revision on Samuel", Aram 5 (1993) 481-490. 

2. George of the Arabs 

Born around 640 in a village near Anlioch, George received his first 
education from zperioclcutes, an itinerant member of the clergy, in this 
case Antiochcnc. He probably studied at the monastery of Qenneshre, 
then the centre of the revival of Aristotelian studies, centred on the 
Stagyrite's Organon, in the Jacobite circles of the Syrian Church - a 
revival sustained in those years especially by Severus Scbokt, Jacob of 
Edessa and Athanasius of Balad, from 683/684 to the year of his death 
(687) patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church. In November 686 or 
during 687, perhaps at Athanasius' initiative, George was consecrated 
bishop of the Arab tribes of Hirta. Henceforth, to his scholarly activity 
he added the writing of homilies, of which some traces survive. In 708, 
on Jacob's death, George completed his Hexaemeron. He died in 724. 

Editions and translations: George of the Arabs, Letter to the priest Jesus, in P. de 
Lagarde, Analecta syriaca, Leipzig 1858, 108-134 (German tr. [partial]: V. Ryssel, 
Em Brief Georgs, Bischofs der Araber, an der Presbyter Jesus, aus dem Syrischen 
ubersetzt und erfiiittert. Mit einer Einleitung iiber sein Leben und seiner Schriften, 
Gotha 1883; French tr. [partial] by M.-J. Pierre, in: Aphraate le sage persan, Les 
Exposes, 2, SCh 359, Paris 1989, 966-983); V. Ryssel, "Poemi siriaci di Giorgio 

vescovo degli Arabi (VIII sec.)", AAL 4, 9 ( 1 892) 1-93 (contains, among other things, 
the long recension of a memro on myron [1-33] and one on the life of solitaries 
[34-46]; German tr.: Idem, Georg des Araberhischofs Gedichte und Brief e, Leipzig 
I S9I -which also comprises the translation of various letters, including one to the 
priest Jacob, his synkcllos, from which are taken some scholia to the discourses of 
Gregory Na7-ian7.en: cf, A. De Halleux, "Les commentaires syriaques des discours 
de Gregoire de Nazianze - un premier sondage", Musion 98 [1985] 103-147, esp, 
109-112); R.H. Connolly, H.W. Codrington, Two Commentaries on the Jacobite 
Liturgy by George Bishop of the Arab Tribes and Moses bar Kepha: together with 
the Syriac Anaphora of St. James and a Document Entitled "The Book of Life", 
London 1913 (George's text was previously translated by V. Ryssel in Georg des 
Araberhischofs Gedichte... cit., 36-43; his sources are studied in S. Brock, "Some 
Early Syriac Baptismal Commentaries", OCP 46 [1980] 20-61); G. Furlani, "Le 
categoric e gli ermeneutici di Aristotele nella versione siriaca di Giorgio delle Nazioni", 
AAL 6 T 5/1 (1933) 1-66; Idem, "II PrimoLibro dei Primi Analitici di Aristotele nella 
versione siriaca di Giorgio delle Nazioni", AAL 6, 5/3 (1935) 143-230; Idem, "II 
Secondo Libro dei Primi Analitici di Aristotele nella versione siriaca di Giorgio delle 
Nazioni", AAL 6, 6/3 (1937) 23 1-287; Idem, "II proemio di Giorgio delle Nazioni al 
primo libro dei Primi Analitici di Aristotele", Rivista degli studi oriental! 18 (1939) 
116-130 (with Greek-Italian tr.); Idem, "Sul commento di Giorgio delle Nazioni al 
secondo libro degli Analitici Antcriori di Arisiotele T \ Rivista degli studi orientali 20 
(1943) 229-238 (with Greek-Italian tr.); F. Rilliet, "Une homelie metrique sur la fete 
des hosannas attribute a Georges cvequc des Arabcs", OrChr 74 (1990) 72-102; 
George, Bishop of the Arabs, A Homily on Blessed Mar Severus, Patriarch of 
Antioch, ed. K.E. McVey, CSCO 530 / Syr, 216 (English tr., CSCO 531 f Syr. 217), 
Lovanii 1993. 

Studies: Cf. the pages on George's life and doctrines especially in V. Ryssel, Ein 
Brief... cit., and Georg des Araberhischofs Gedichte... cit.; and in K.E. McVey, A 
Homily, introduction to the tr.; D. Miller, "George, Bishop of the Arab Tribes, on 
True Philosophy", Aram 5 (1993) 303-320. 


Theodore bar KrJnai was a monk at Kashkar, in Bet Aramaye, at whose 
school, founded probably towards the end of the 6th century, he taught 
biblical exegesis. The work by which he is known to us, completed 
probably around 792, bears the title Book of Scholia, in accordance 
with the custom of calling thus the collections of brief clarifications on 
places or arguments of particular obscurity in Scripture or theological 
debate. What Theodore proposed was thus the composition of a manual 
that would introduce students to the exegesis practised in the school, 
i.e. to the leaching of the Interpreter par excellence of Scripture among 
the "Nestorians", Theodore of Mopsucstia. Of the eleven treatises that 
compose the work, nine correspond to this project, containing notes in 
the form of questions and answers on methodological, philosophical- 
theological and strictly exegctical questions. At the end of the ninth 
treatise, a copyist's note gives us to understand that here probably ended 




a first redaction of the text. There are two further "books", added to 
the former, in which Theodore draws up an defence of Christianity 
against Islam (Kashkar was close to the Arab city of al-Wasit, founded 
in 702, so relations with the Islamic world were particularly intense in 
the region) and then a list of heresies, which contains some items of 
extraordinary interest. The Book of Scholia survives in two recensions, 
of differing lengths and with a partly different internal organization of 

Editions: A. Scher, Theodorus bar Koni, Liber Scholiorum (Seen recension), CSCO 
55 and 69 / Syr. 19 and 26 (Syr. II, 65 and 66), Paris 1910 and 1912 (anast. ed., 
Louvain 1960; French tr.: R. Hespel, R, Draguet, Theodore bar Koni, Livre des 
ScoliesI-II, CSC043\-*32/ Syr. 187-188,Louvzin 1981-1982); R. HespcKT/r&K/ore 
bar Koni, Livre des Scolies (recension d'Urmiah), CSCO 447 / Syr, 193 (French tr., 
CSCO 448 / Syr 194), Louvain 1983; R. Hespel, Theodore bar Koni, Livre des 
Scolies (recension d'Urmiah), Les collections annexes par Sylvain de Qardu y CSCO 
464 /Syr. 197 (French tr., CSCO 465 I Syr. 198), Louvain 1984. 
Studies: L. Brade, Untersuchmgen zum Scholienbuch des Theodoros bar Konai, 
Wiesbaden 1 975; S3. Griffith, "Chapter Ten of the 'Scholion' : Theodore bar Koni's 
Apology for Christianity", OCP 47 (1981) 158-188; Idem, "Theodore bar Koni's 
Scholion; A Nestorian ^Summa contra gentiles' from the First Abbasid Century", 
East of Byzantium, Syria and Armenia in lite Formative Period, cd. N. GarsoTan, T. 
Mathews, &.W. Thomson, Washington (DC) 1982, 53-72; S. Gero, "Ophite 
Gnosticism according to Theodore bar Koni's Liber Scholiorum", IV Symposium 
Syriacum 1984, ed. H.J.W. Drijvers, R, Lavcnant, C. Molenbcrg, G.J. Rcinink, Rome 
1987, 265-274; D. Kruisheer, "Theodore Bar Koni's Ktaba d-'cskolion as a Source 
for the Study of Early Mandcism", JEOL 33 (1993-1994 <1995>) 151-169. 



by Tito Orlandt 


Coptic was one of the languages commonly used in late antique Egypt, 
and is attested especially among the Christians, from the 3rd to the 9th 
century (cf. A.S. Attiya, in The Coptic Encyclopedia, s.v. Linguistics, 
1-227). The others were Greek {in common use until about the 7th 
century) and Arabic (from the 7th century on), as well as Egyptian 
proper, in the state known as "demotic" (until the 5th century?), and 
Aramaic, used by the Jews. The coexistence of different languages 
produced a vast phenomenon of bilingualism and multilingual ism in the 
more educated part of the population, and consequently peculiar charac- 
teristics in literary output. Coptic probably came into being as an artificial 
literary language, with the aim of recovering as much as possible of the 
old Egyptian culture in a Christian world. It was built on the structure 
of the Egyptian spoken at the time {2nd-3rd centuries), using Egyptian 
and Greek vocabulary indiscriminately. Greek also had a great influence 
on its syntactic structure, since Egyptian syntax was of little use in 
rendering complicated constructs. 

It is customary to distinguish in Coptic a number of dialects (Sahidic, 
Bohairic, Achmimic, Subachmtmic, Oxyrhynchitc, etc.), but the sense 
of such a distinction is hard to ascertain, since we do not know with 
sufficient exactness what sounds were represented by the different 
graphemes found in the manuscripts, nor is it possible to state with 
certainty whether the different graphematic systems corresponded to 
geographically identifiable varieties, or bow. At any rate, so-called Sahidic 
was the literary language par excellence up to the 8th century, Bohairic 
from the 9th century. Literary corpora are also found in Subachmimic 
(Manichaean texts) and Oxyrhynchite (biblical texts). 

Texts that may be called patristic form almost the whole of Coptic 
literature, which arose and developed within the Christian Church of 
Egypt; and the reasons for any interest the patristic scholar may nourish 
towards such texts are many and diverse. Coptic texts may be original, 



The Eastern Fathers 

from the Council of Chalcedon (451) 

to John of Damascus (f 750) 


English translation by ADRIAN WALFORD 

. James Clarke & Co 



Published by 

James Clarke & Co Ltd 

P.O. Box 60 



ISBN (10) 227 67979 2 
ISBN (13) 978 227 67979 1 

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data 
A record is available for this book from the British Library 

First published in English by James Clarke & Co 2006 

English translation: Copyright © James Clarke & Co, 2006 

Copyright © Marietti (1820), 2000 

First Published in 2000 by Marietti (1820) 

as Patrologia: I Padri orientali (secoli V-VIII) 

All rights reserved. 
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval 

system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, 

mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior 

permission in writing of the publisher. 

Printed in the United Kingdom by 

Athenaeum Press 


Preface xxi 

List of Abbreviations xxm 

Contributors.. xxxi 


1. The social and political background 1 

2. The religious background 3 

3. Literary production 10 

Bibliography 19 


Introduction....:. 21 

Eudoxia Augusta 23 

Atticus of Constantinople 23 

HeraclidesofNyssa 24 

Maximian of Constantinople 25 

Alypius the Presbyter 26 

Parthenius, Presbyter of Constantinople 26 

Dorotheus of Marcianopolis 27 

Basil the Archimandrite 27 

AmphilochiusofSide 27 

Dalmatius the Archimandrite 28 

Julian of Sardica 28 

Severus of Synnada 28 

Eusebius of Heraclea 29 

MemnonofEphesus 29 

Eusebius of Dorylaeum 29 

Theodotus of Ancyra 30 

Peter of Traianopolis 31 

FirmusofCaesarea 31 

Erecthiusof Antioch 32 

Cyrus of Panopolis 32 

Eutyches 33 

Flavian of Constantinople 34 

Anatolius of Constantinople 35